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Toxicity
Raw fruit of some types can cause gastric distress

Sambucus nigra caerulea

Blue Elderberry

Deciduous, Edible fruit, Shrubs, Trees, 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 nigra caerulea

Native from California north to British Columbia, east to the Rockies. Grows to 10–30 ft. tall and 8–20 ft. wide. Leaves are divided into five to nine toothed, 1–6-in.-long leaflets. White or creamy white flowers in flat-topped, 2–8-in.-wide clusters in spring and summer. Clusters of blue to nearly black berries, usually covered with whitish powder, follow the flowers. Fruit is often used in jams, jellies, pies, and wine. Drought-tolerant, but it looks better (and keeps its foliage in summer) if given moderate water.

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