Blue elderberry is a deciduous shrub to small tree with soft, pithy twigs and opposite-growing leaves divided into lance-shaped leaflets. Showy clusters of creamy-white flowers mature into small blue-black drupes covered in a white bloom.
The berries are a valuable food resource for many birds. Elders are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (moth) species. Dead elder wood is the preferred habitat of the mushroom Auricularia auricula-judae, also known as Judas’ ear fungus or wood ear fungus.
The berries are best not eaten raw. Both flowers and berries can be made into elderberry wine, and Hungary produces elderberry brandy (requiring 50 kg of fruit to produce 1 liter of brandy).The berries can be made into jam, pies or Pontack sauce. All green parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cyanogenic glycosides (Vedel & Lange 1960).
The flowers may be used to make an herbal tea, which is believed as a remedy for colds and fever. In Europe, the flowers are made into a syrup or cordial that is diluted with water before drinking. The popularity of this traditional drink has recently encouraged some commercial soft drink producers to introduce elderflower-flavored drinks. The flowers can also be used to make a mildly alcoholic, sparkling elderflower ‘champagne’.
- Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
- Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
- Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
- Growth Rate: Fast
- Spreads: No
- Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
- Edible: Yes, but parts of the plant toxic
- Mature Height: 10-25ft
- Mature Width: 18ft