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Elderberry, Black - Sambucus canadensis

Elderberry, Black - Sambucus canadensis

Sambucus canadensis, or Black Elderberry, is a perennial flowering shrub native to Michigan and the UP. It is a deciduous, somewhat sprawling shrub that typically grows to 5 to 12 feet tall and spreads by rhizome to form a colony. Shoots can be controlled with pruning. (Note that there is a European variety with a single trunk. Always plant native, as close to local genotype as you can.) American Black Elderberry favors medium to wet ground, including stream banks, moist woodlands, swamps, floodplains, ditches, thickets, and shores, but it does fine in regular garden soil.


Tiny lemon-scented white flowers appear in large flat-topped clusters in June. Flower clusters can be 10 inches across. The flowers provide pollen for a variety of bees and other pollinators. Pithy stems of dead twigs also provide a haven for stem-nesting, solitary native bees. The clusters of flowers give way to clusters of shiny berries. Even after the wildlife (or you) have stripped the tasty, nutritious, medicinal fruit, the flower stems remain as bursts of frothy purple against the green leaves. This is a really attractive shrub.


Flowers give way to clusters of black elderberry fruits in late summer. The fully ripe, purple-black fruit can be used for making jelly, pie, or wine. It is also popular with wildlife. Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, and too many others to list here eat the fruit (see more at It is a favored food source for many of these birds. Birds also like the cover offered by the dense shrub. Pairs well with fireweed.


Please note, we do not currently grow this plant from seed; we source it from a downstate nursery. The nursery has reported that, although they verify their stock to be free of Neonicotinoids, they do use pesticides on their nursery stock.


We have started the process of propegating adequate quantities of this shrub from a U.P. seed source so we can offer this plant up to our normal standards. In the meantime, we offer downstate nursery stock because using a native plant to landscape instead of a similarly-raised cultivar will ultimately be beneficial, especially for a long-lived shrub.

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