Elder tree identification

The Elder Sambucus nigra is a shrub or small tree which grows in hedgerows and woods throughout Britain. It is also native to Europe, North Africa and south west Asia. The flowers can be used to make Elderflower cordial. The fruit is used to make wine and has many medicinal uses, but the seeds and other plant parts are toxic. Sambucus is genus of deciduous trees, shrubs and herbs comprising 20 species widespread in temperate and tropical regions.

Elder tree identification is by pinnate leaf, white flowers, black berries and large purple buds. It easily recognised in late spring when it bears flat plates of white flowers and in autumn from its black berries. In winter it has distinctive branches with big purple buds. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Elder tree

Elder tree in August.

Elder shrub

Elder shrub in September.

Elder tree  pinnate leaf

There are 5 to 7 tooth-edged leaflets on each leaf. This is a pinnate leaf.

Elder tree opposite leaves

The leaves are in opposite pairs.

Elder tree  flowers in June

The flowers are in flat-topped clusters called cymes. Photo taken at the end of June.

Elder tree fruit

Fruit (Elderberries) in late September

Elder  tree bark

The bark of a mature Elder tree has criss-crossed ridges. Young Elder shrubs have grooved bark.

Shrub in January, showing the opposite branching that is typical of the Elder.

Elder  tree buds

The buds are opposite and are large, purple and look ragged. Photo taken in January

Buds and shoots are opposite and the buds stick out either side of the shoot.