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American Elderberry

Plant Type: Dormant, bare-root

Zones:  3-9

Soil Type:  Clay, Loamy & Sandy Soils

Site Selection: Full Sun, Partial Sun

Mature Height & Width:  10-15' Height and 10-15' Spread

Growth Rate:  Fast - 24" or more per year once established

Moisture Requirements: Average to wet soils

Plant Characteristics

American Elderberry

Sambucus canadensis

The American Elderberry is a large, spreading shrub that flowers in clumps of white early in the season. This shrub produces large clusters of small berries which are edible once autumn arrives. The ripened berries are great for making pie, wine and jam. This shrub is perfect for naturalizing wide open areas such as a farm field, and provides excellent cover for wildlife. This shrub will do very well in wetter areas and is commonly used for effective erosion control along rivers and streams. Consider planting another elderberry such as the Red Elderberry within 60' for even better pollination.

The American Elderberry is also known as the Common Elderberry, Mexican Elderberry or the Black Elder.

Important Note:  Plant parts and raw, unripened berries are toxic to humans and animals, and are especially harmful to children. Only the blue-black, ripened berries should be picked and eaten or processed into other foods.

The American Elderberry is a great plant that grows in 45 of the 50 United States and the eastern two thirds of Canada. While not drought tolerant, this bush will grow in average soils. Plant this shrub in full sun for best results although it will tolerate part shade conditions. While you will likely get crops of berries when multiples of these shrubs are planted, a higher berry yield will occur if you plant another cultivar such as the Red Elderberry, which we also carry.

Common uses for the American Elderberry include:

  • Ripened berries used for wine, jam and pie
  • Naturalizing large, open spaces
  • Erosion control along creeks and streams
  • Privacy screens
  • Good choice for lower story of a windbreak
  • Great wildlife value

The American Elderberry produces flower clusters which are attractive to bees and butterflies. Game birds, squirrels, other rodents and several kinds of browsers also feed on the fruit or foliage of Elderberry.  Bears love to eat the Elderberry fruits while deer, elk, and moose browse on the stems and foliage.

The Elderberries are important sources of summer food for many kinds of songbirds. For example, the Western Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Common House Finch, Red-shafted Flicker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-headed Grosbeak, Scrub Jay, Stellar Jay, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Mockingbird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Bullock’s Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Western Tanager, California Thrasher, Russet-backed Thrush, Brown Towhee, Audubon Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Lewis and Nuttall's Woodpecker, Wren-Tit, grouse, pheasant, and pigeons all eat Elderberries.