Sambucus nigra (Elderberry)
|Price £ each (ex. VAT)|
Bareroot from November to April
The prices above are offered as a guide and may be subject to fluctuation dependant upon the time of season and supply. We recommend that contact is made with the office for larger orders, a quotation and to check availability Alternatively please contact us to enquire about opening a wholesale account.
The Elder is so familiar in the countryside that it’s easy to forget just what an attractive shrub it is. Its flat creamy flowerheads dominate the hedgerows in early summer and the drooping blue-black berries borne in huge bunches are a sure sign that autumn is here. It has excellent wildlife value and is an essential under-storey shrub in native woodlands all over Britain.
Site and soil
Elder is tough and hardy and will grow in most soils and situations, although it prefers soil which doesn't dry out. For optimal flowering, grow in full sun or part shade.
Height and spread
After 10 years: 6m x 4m
After 20 years: 6m x 4m
Leaf and bark
The large mid-green leaves are divided into 5, or more often 7 leaflets. The leaves have serrated edges and a very distinctive, strong smell. The young bark is pale grey, spotted with lenticels; as it ages the bark becomes slightly darker with deep vertical ridges.
Flower, seed and fruit
The tiny white flowers are borne in large flat clusters about 16cm across in May and June. They have a musky, honey scent. The small round blue-black berries ripen in huge clusters in September and October.
Woodland understorey and margins. In the past it was used as a fast-growing hedge as it quickly made a barrier or screen.
The flowers are used to make Elderflower cordial and Elderflower champagne and the berries to make Elderberry wine. This is a rich, strong wine, similar to port, and was once used to adulterate port when it first came to Britain.
The berries can also be used for jams, chutneys, vinegar and in baking.
All parts of the plant are used medicinally, including the pith which is a strong purgative. The whole plant has a reputation for being effective in the treatment of rheumatism and bronchial complaints. The flowers are used to make an eye and skin lotions and the leaves make a good insect repellent.
The wood is used for small items like combs, toys and mathematical instruments, and country children once made flutes, whistles and pop-guns from the hollowed-out branches.
The whole tree is surrounded by magic and superstition. It was believed that the Elder protected against evil spirits, and that if you waited beneath the tree on Mid-summer's Eve you'd see the king of the fairies and all his courtiers riding by.
Insects, particularly hoverflies are attracted to the flowers, and many birds, including blackbirds and thrushes feed on the berries, as do small mammals. Elder provides roosting sites and shelter for birds.
As a rough hedge or screen, Elder can be pruned in winter. If individual plants get too large, they can be hard-pruned to ground level in late winter.