Sambucus nigra

Family: Viburnaceae

Countries: Albania, Austria, Balearic Islands, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Corsica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Europe, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Middle East, Netherlands, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sardegna, Scotland, Sicily, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Wales, Yugoslavia

In the UK, Sambucus nigra is known as Elder.  These small trees and shrubs must have many common names, as they’re a wild plant that frequents many countries across Europe, as well as places as far afield as Western Asia and North Africa.  Sambucus nigra is a deciduous plant with green pinnate foliage.  In late spring and early summertime, Sambucus nigra produces huge flat circles of cream coloured, scented flowers that are popular with insects.  Elderflowers are often harvested at their peak, when the flowers are turned into elderflower cordial or used to add to other exciting culinary dishes.  Pollinated flowers that manage to escape any local cordial makers’ grasping hands will develop into small black elderberries, which can be used in cordials and other cooked dishes.  Sambucus nigra berries must be cooked before they are eaten; some people have an adverse reaction after eating the berries.  Please take care, if you’re unsure whether flowers or berries are safe to eat, please leave them alone.  If you don’t eat Sambucus nigra berries the birds and wildlife will happily take them off your hands.

When I think of Sambucus nigra, I picture country hedgerows and woodland edges, but this tree is an excellent choice as a garden plant and can be grown as a specimen tree or as part of a hedgerow.  Plant Sambucus nigra in a bright and sunny or partially shaded spot.  These small trees or large shrubs are very easy going and will happy grow in almost any soil.  Avoid wet and waterlogged soils, as your plant will decline if kept permanently wet, but Sambucus nigra will grow happily on chalk, clay, loam, sand, or silty soils.

Sambucus nigra grows up to 7m (22ft) tall 3.5m (11.5ft) and wide, depending on the soil and the situation the plants are grown in.  Grow Sambucus nigra as part of a hedge, or as a shrub or specimen tree.  This is an easy-going plant that only requires pruning if you wish to limit the size of your plant.

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