A Few Facts About The Elderberry Tree
The elderberry tree is most commonly seen as a shrub, but one that can grow to the height of a small tree. It is found in the eastern part of the United States, particularly the southeast, and also in the Midwest. One type, the blue elder, grows in the western part of the United States. The tree is native to Europe, where its berries have long been used as food, including the production of elderberry wine.
The elderberry tree is of several types, producing blue, black and red berries. All three can be eaten, but only the blue and black berries have medicinal value. The elderberry blossoms have long been used as diuretics, and extracts from the fruit have been used as a treatment for flu symptoms. The berries of the black elderberry tree are noted for being especially rich in vitamins A, B and C.
Not All Elderberries Are Elderberries - There are some cautions to be taken into account insofar as eating elderberries is concerned, as there is an impostor which should be avoided. The Hercules’ club is a small tree or shrub, very closely resembling the elderberry tree, and having black berries similar to that of the elderberry. These berries grow in flat clusters on a thorny trunk. The elderberry tree, a member of the honeysuckle family, does not have thorns. In addition, some species of red elderberry trees have fruit which grow in rounded, instead of flat clusters. These should be avoided as well.
A Food Source For Many - Many pick elder flowers for eating purposes. When added to pancake mix they make wonderful tasting pancakes, called elder blow fritters, and can also be brewed as a healthy and good tasting tea. The berries are commonly used in baking breads and muffins, as well as in making jams and jellies. The fruit is also a favorite of many species of songbirds and upland game birds, so if there is a shrub or tree growing in the wild near where you live, you're apt to have some competitors when it comes to harvesting the berries. The white tailed deer, and some smaller mammals, are known to feast on the berries as well, and the deer in particular love to eat the leaves and branches. If you have your own tree or shrub and live in deer country, you may have to take precautions to protect the tree and its berries.
The elderberry tree can also be used as an ornamental plant, being quite decorative when in bloom. It blooms later than most fruit bearing trees, usually in mid to late summer. The trees and shrubs have also been used extensively for erosion control and soil reclamation in various parts of the country.
Elderberry Tree Identification - As noted, the elderberry is normally seen as a shrub, which can at times attain tree height. In The United States it is not uncommon to find the elderberry as a shrub standing no more than 4 feet tall, but species in some locations can reach a height of 20 feet. It is a deciduous plant, having compound leaves 6 to 9 inches long with 5 to 11 leaflets. The leaflets can vary in size considerably, being anywhere from 2 to 6 inches long, and from 3/4 of an inch to over 2 inches wide. The leaves have a deep green upper surface and a lighter green under surface. The margins of the leaves tend to be sharply serrated. Flowers appear as large, flat-topped clusters, often up to a foot in width. The blooms are mildly fragrant, and after dying back are replaced by drooping clusters of berries.
The elderberry tree is not often found in the private garden, but most often will be found in the wild, or planted in masses for landscaping or soil reclamation purposes.