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Zones A1-A3, 1-7, 14-17
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Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate
Toxicity
Raw fruit of some types can cause gastric distress

Sambucus canadensis

American Elderberry

Deciduous, Edible fruit, Shrubs, Flowers

SAMBUCUS

Grow these large, airy deciduous shrubs for their white spring flowers and colorful summer berries. In big gardens, they make effective summer screens or windbreaks. To keep shrubby types dense, prune hard in the dormant season, removing older stems and heading back last year’s growth to a few inches. Overgrown plants can be cut to the ground. Types that grow into trees need early training to single or multiple trunks.

The various elder species have bright to dark green leaves and near-black, blue, or red berries. Fruit of red-berried species and of S. nigra caerulea can cause gastric upset in humans if consumed raw in large quantities. (Red-fruited forms of black- and blue-berried species are not poisonous.) Species names are presently in flux.

Sambucus canadensis

Native to central and eastern North America. Grown mostly in cold-winter climates. Spreading, suckering shrub to 12 ft. tall and wide. Each leaf has seven 2–6-in.-long leaflets. Blooms in early summer, bearing flat, creamy white flower clusters to 10 in. wide; these are followed by tasty purple-black berries. The fruit is used for pies; both flowers and fruit are used for wine. Strictly fruiting varieties include ‘Adams’ and the larger-fruited (and later) ‘York’; plant both for cross-pollination. ‘Aurea’ has golden green foliage (golden in full sun) and red berries.

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