Common elder

Sambucus nigra | Also known as: Pipe tree, European elderberry, Bur tree, Elderberry | Rating: 0 votes | Print / Pdf

It’s no pipe dream, the elderberry and its fragrant elderflower both have lots of culinary and medicinal uses.

Sambucus nigra is more commonly known as Elder or Elderberry. It's a small tree growing between around four and six metres tall. It has rough grey furrowed bark, green leaves and small white flowers. It produces small dark purple berry fruits that hang in clusters on deep red stalks. The berries are edible when ripe, great for making jams or elderberry wine. Don't eat them too young though as they are poisonous until fully mature. The flowers are also edible and have a distinctive sweet taste and so are often used as a flavouring for cordials or ice cream. The leaves are usually plain green, though there are some varieties that have variegated leaves. Elderberries have been traditionally used to cure flu and bronchitis, and studies show this it does indeed have some impact on the speed at which a person recovers from Type A Flu.

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Known dangers?
  • no
Height [m]
  • 6
Spread [m]
  • 6
Dominant flower colour
  • White
Flower Fragrance
  • Yes, let it smell
Flowering seasons
  • Early summer
Foliage in spring
  • Green
Foliage in summer
  • Green
Foliage in Autumn
  • Yellow
Propagation methods
  • Greenwood cuttings
  • seed
  • Hardwood cuttings
Growth habit
  • Bushy
  • Acidic
  • Neutral
  • Alkaline
Hardiness zone
  • Z6-8
Heat zone
  • H9-3
Winter temperatures [°C]
  • -23 - -7
Heat days
  • 7 - 150
  • well-drained
  • well-drained but frequently watered
Soil type
  • sandy
  • Clay
  • chalky
  • loams
Sun requirements
  • Full sun
  • Partial shade
  • Exposed
  • Sheltered
Standard category
  • Trees & shrubs
  • Shrubs
Grown for
  • Ornamental berries
Creative category
  • Kid Approved
  • Fine fragrants
  • For Beginners
  • Neighbour repellant
  • For birds & bees
Garden type
  • Coastal
  • Wildlife gardens
Garden spaces
  • Hedges and screens
  • Borders
Gardening expertise
  • beginner
Time to reach full size
  • up to 20 years
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