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American Elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (Sambucus canadensis, Sambucus mexicana)





credit: Derek Jensen (Tysto)/CCSA


Sambucus canadensis (American Elderberry) is native to a large area of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, and south through eastern Mexico and Central America to Panama. It grows in a variety of conditions including both wet and dry soils, primarily in sunny locations. It is a deciduous suckering shrub growing to 3 m or more tall. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, pinnate with five to nine leaflets, the leaflets around 10 cm long and 5 cm broad. In summer, it bears large (20–30 cm diameter) corymbs of white flowers above the foliage, the individual flowers 5–6 mm diameter, with five petals. The fruit is a dark purple to black berry 3–5 mm diameter, produced in drooping clusters in the fall. The berries and flowers are edible, but other parts of the plant are poisonous, containing toxic calcium oxalate crystals. It is closely related to the European Sambucus nigra, and some authors treat it as conspecific, under the name Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis.

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