The Elder Sambucus nigra is a shrub or small tree found in hedgerows and woods throughout Britain. It is also known as the Elderberry. It is also native to Europe, North Africa and south-west Asia. The fruit is used to make wine and has many medicinal uses, but the seeds and other plant parts are toxic. It is easily recognised in 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. It has long been known for its medicinal properties and its stems have been used to make whistles and pipes, but it also became associated with witches, magic and folklore. To burn elder wood was thought to bring bad luck. On the other hand it could be used ward off witches and make magic wands.
An Elder Shrub in mid June
The flowers are in flat-topped clusters called compound cymes by botanists. Photo taken at the end of June.
There are 5 to 7 tooth-edged leaflets on each leaf. This is a pinnate leaf. The buds and leaves are in opposite pairs. The buds in winter are large and purple and look ragged. For more photos click HERE.
Fruit in late September. The complexity of the branching system can be seen here.