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Alder, Michael G.
Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea (Raf.) R. Bolli
Blue elder, Black elder, Blue (Mexican) elderberry
Synonyms: Sambucus caerulea, Sambucus glauca
USDA Symbol: sanic6
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
A large shrub or small tree, blue elder grows 6-24 ft. tall with flat-topped clusters of fragrant, creamy flowers followed by black berries. Deciduous leaves are pinnately compound and somewhat persistent.
The sweetish berries are used in preserves and pies but should never be eaten when fresh and raw. Lewis and Clark first reported Blue Elder as an alder with pale, sky blue berries. A remedy for fever has been concocted from the bark. Blue Elderberry is planted as an ornamental for the numerous whitish flowers and bluish fruits.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Shrub Leaf:
Green Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug
DistributionUSA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , NM , NV , OR , TX , UT , WA , WY
Native Distribution: CA Sierras & Coast Ranges to s. B.C., e. to Alt. & NM
Native Habitat: Cool, moist, open places up to 10,000 ft.
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist, rich, rocky, well drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Pruning improves form.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Birds eat berries.
Use Food: Edible berries.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationDescription: Easily started from cuttings. May also be propagated by treated seed.
Seed Collection: Collect fruits by stripping or cutting from the branches. Fruits may be dried or macerated and the seeds extracted.
Seed Treatment: Seed must be cold-moist stratified for two months. This treatment may be preceded by a 10-15 minute soak in H2SO4.
Commercially Avail: yes
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Record Modified: 2009-04-08
Research By: TWC Staff