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Sambucus nigra

Sambucus nigra

Shrub in flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
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 soils, primarily in sunny locations.

  It is a deciduous shrub 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 berries are poisonous, containing toxic calcium oxalate crystals in a form called sambunigrin (C14H17NO6, CAS number 99-19-4).[5]

  • 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.
  • In Beerse, Belgium, a variety of Jenever called Beers Vlierke is made from the berries.


  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


  • Blanchan, Neltje (2002). Wild Flowers: An Aid to Knowledge of our Wild Flowers and their Insect Visitors. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation. 
  • Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sambucus_nigra". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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