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Sambucus nigra
Shrub in flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Adoxaceae
Genus: Sambucus
Species: S. nigra
Binomial name
Sambucus nigra

Sambucus nigra[1] is a species of elder native to most of Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia. It is most commonly called just Elder or Elderberry, but also Black Elder, European Elder, European Elderberry, European Black Elderberry[2][3], Common Elder, or Elder Bush when distinction from other species of Sambucus is needed. It grows in a variety of conditions including both wet and dry fertile soils, primarily in sunny locations.




It is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 4–6 m (rarely to 10 m) tall. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, 10–30 cm long, pinnate with five to seven (rarely nine) leaflets, the leaflets 5–12 cm long and 3–5 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The hermaphrodite flowers are borne in large corymbs 10–25 cm diameter in mid summer, the individual flowers white, 5–6 mm diameter, with five petals; they are pollinated by flies. The fruit is a dark purple to black berry 3–5 mm diameter, produced in drooping clusters in the late autumn; they are an important food for many fruit-eating birds, notably Blackcaps.


There are several other closely related species, native to Asia and North America, which are very similar, and treated as subspecies of S. nigra by some botanists (see the genus page for details).




This plant is used as a medicinal plant and also used as a ornamental plant. It is cited as a poisonous plant to mammals as well as cited as a weed.[4] All parts of the plant except for the flowers and ripe berries (but including the ripe seeds) are poisonous, containing the cyanogenic glycoside sambunigrin (C14H17NO6, CAS number 99-19-4).[5] The bark contains calcium oxalate crystals.

  • The flowerheads are commonly used in infusions, giving a very common refreshing drink in Northern Europe and Balkans. Commercially these are sold as elderflower cordial, etc.
  • The berries are edible after cooking and can be used to make jam, jelly, chutney and cordial. They go particularly well with blackberries and with apples – for example in apple pie.
  • The strong-smelling foliage was used in the past, tied to a horse's mane, to keep flies away while riding.
  • Stembark, leaves, flowers, fruits, root extracts are used to treat bronchitis, cough, upper respiratory cold infections, fever. A small (N=60) double blind clinical trial published in 2004 showed reduction in both duration and severity of flu-like symptoms for patients receiving elderberry syrup versus placebo.[1]
  • In Beerse, Belgium, a variety of Jenever called Beers Vlierke is made from the berries.

Elderberry flowers are sold in Ukrainian and Russian drugstores for relief of congestion, specifically as an expectorant to relieve dry cough and make it productive. The dried flowers are simmered for 15 minutes and the resulting tasty and aromatic tea is poured through a coffee filter. It is better hot, but can be drunk cold. Some individuals may experience an allergic reaction.

The flowers may be used to make an herbal tea, which is believed as a remedy for colds and fever.


Both flowers and berries can be made into elderberry wine, and in Hungary an elderberry brandy is produced (requiring 50 kg of fruit to produce 1 litre of brandy). The alcoholic drink sambuca is not made with elderberries. The dark blue/purple berries can be eaten when fully ripe but are mildly poisonous in their unripe state. [6] . The berries can also be made into jam, pies or Pontack sauce. All green parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cyanogenic glycosides (Vedel & Lange 1960). The seeds of red elderberries are toxic and must be removed before eating red elderberries or food products from red elderberries.

The Jelly Ear fungus is frequently found on Elder trees.

In Europe, the flowers are made into a syrup or cordial (in Romanian: Socată), which is diluted with water before drinking. The popularity of this traditional drink has recently encouraged some commercial soft drink producers to introduce elderflower-flavoured drinks (Fanta Shokata, Freaky Fläder). Elderflowers are also used in liqueurs such as St-Germain[7] and a mildly alcoholic, sparkling elderflower 'champagne'. The flowers can also be dipped into a light batter and then fried to make elderflower fritters.

In Scandinavia, elder berry and elder flower juice is commonly consumed as squash - concentrated juice to be mixed with water. In Scandinavia and Germany, soup made from the elder berry is a traditional meal.


Variegated, coloured leaved, and other distinctive forms are grown in gardens.


Like other elderberries, Sambucus nigra is subject to Elder whitewash fungus.

Elder Whitewash fungus (Hyphodontia sambuci) on Elder in Scotland.


  1. ^ Sambucus nigra at Flora Europaea
  2. ^ TSN 35324. Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  3. ^ Sambucus nigra at USDA PLANTS Database
  4. ^ Sambucus nigra at Germplasm Resources Information Network
  5. ^ Campa, C. et al. (2000): Analysis of cyanogenic glycosides by micellar capillary electrophoresis. In: J. Chromatogr. B. Biomed. Sci. Appl. 739:95–100. PMID 10744317
  6. ^ Professor Julia Morton, University of Miami
  7. ^


External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikispecies has information on:


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun

Sambucus nigra

  1. (taxonomy) A taxonomic species within the genus Sambucuselder, elderberry, black elder; a species of elder native to most of Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia.


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Berries of Sambucus nigra


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Euasterids II
Ordo: Dipsacales
Familia: Adoxaceae
Genus: Sambucus
Species: Sambucus nigra


Sambucus nigra L., Sp. Pl. ed. 1 269. 1753.


  • Sambucus alba Raf. , Alsog. Am., 48. 1838.
  • Sambucus aurea Carr.
  • Sambucus arborescens Gilib. , Exerc. phyt. vol. 1, 5. 1792.
  • Sambucus dissecta C.Koch
  • Sambucus florida Salisb. , Prodr., 172. 1796.
  • Sambucus laciniata (L.) Mill. , Gard. Dict. ed. vol. 8, no. 2. 1768.
  • Sambucus medullosa Gilib. , Fl. lit. inch. vol. 1, 26. 1782.
  • Sambucus nigra f. alba (Weston) Rehd., Bibl. cult. trees 599. 1949.
  • Sambucus nigra f. albomarmorata Geerinck, Taxonomaniac, 1: 19. 2001.
  • Sambucus nigra f. aurea (Sweet) Schwer., Mitt. Deutsch. Dendrol. Ges. 1909 (18):33. 1910.
  • Sambucus nigra f. chlorocarpa (Hayne) Geerinck, Taxonomaniac, 1: 19. 2001.
  • Sambucus nigra f. laciniata (L.) Zabel, L. Beissner et al., Handb. Laubholzben. 437. 1903.
  • Sambucus nigra f. luteomarmorata Geerinck, Taxonomaniac, 1: 19. 2001.
  • Sambucus nigra f. pendula Dippel, Handb. Laubholzk. 1:168. 1889.
  • Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla E.C.Nelson, Plantsman, 8(3): 190. 1986.
  • Sambucus nigra var. alba Weston
  • Sambucus nigra var. chlorocarpa Hayne
  • Sambucus nigra var. decussata Gillot, Bull. Soc. Bot. France, 30, Sess. extr. : XII. 1883.
  • Sambucus nigra var. dimorphophylla Rouy, Fl. Fr., 8 : 69. 1903.
  • Sambucus nigra var. laciniata L., Sp. Pl., éd. 1 : 270. 1753.
  • Sambucus nigra var. viridis Weston
  • Sambucus nigra var. virescens Cariot & St.-Lag., Étude Fl., éd. 8, 2 : 377. 1889.
  • Sambucus pyramidata Lebas, Rev. hortic., 398. 1884.
  • Sambucus virescens Desf. , Hist. arbr. France vol. 1, 348. 1809.
  • Sambucus vulgaris Neck. , Delic. gallo.-belg. vol. 1, 156. 1768.
  • Sambucus vulgaris Lam., Fl. Fr., 3 : 369. 1779 nom. illeg. non Neck (1768).


Vernacular names

Deutsch: Schwarzer Holunder, Holderbusch, Holler, Flieder
English: Black Elder, European Elderberry
Español: Saúco Negro, Caúco Negro, Canillero, Sabuco de Judas
Français: Sureau Noir, Arbre de Judas
Italiano: Sambuco Nero
Magyar: Fekete bodza
Nederlands: Gewone Vlier
‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Svarthyll
Polski: Bez Czarny
Slovenščina: črni bezeg
Svenska: Fläder
Türkçe: Kara mürver
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Sambucus nigra on Wikimedia Commons.


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