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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Sambucus canadensis L.)

Common Elderberry



FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: An erect, coarse, deciduous shrub, usually up to 3 m. high. The light brown or gray stems are stout, but very weak and brittle because of a large pith, which is white. Opposite, pinnately compound leaves have 5-7 lanceolate to ovate, serrate leaflets. The inflorescence is 5 rayed from the base, umbel-like, flat, and wider than long. The flowers are white. The 3-seeded fruit is a small, purple-black berry. In flower from June to August. Red elderberry (S. pubens) is similar but has brown pith, a panicle-like inflorescence, and red berries.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: This elderberry is common in shrub-carrs, wooded swamps and roadside ditches. It may form dense thickets. The berries are eaten by songbirds and ruffed grouse and can be used to make wine or jam.

SOURCE: Gleason and Cronquist (1991); and Swink and Wilhelm (1994).

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