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Sambucus canadensis


Elderberry is a many-stemmed shrub with opposite, compound leaves. It grows to a height of 6 meters. Its flowers are fragrant, white, and borne in large flat-topped clusters up to 30 centimeters across. Its berrylike fruits are dark blue or black when ripe.

Habitat and Distribution

This plant is found in open, usually wet areas at the margins of marshes, rivers, ditches, and lakes. It grows throughout much of eastern North America and Canada.

Edible Parts

The flowers and fruits are edible. You can make a drink by soaking the flower heads for 8 hours, discarding the flowers, and drinking the liquid.


All other parts of the plant are poisonous and dangerous if eaten.

Steve's notes:

Generally, the raw berries are considered inedible, although a few varieties were regularly eaten raw by some native American tribes. Drying or cooking may destroy most of the bad-smelling and potentially toxic compounds. The berries are more often used in jams, jellies, wines and pies, rather than as fresh fruit.

The flowers have been and still are used to make wine. They are also used for "fritters." For these you dip the flower clusters in a simple batter and fry them. Try not to eat too much of the flower stalks, as most parts of the plant are considered to be poisonous.

Some sources say the red-fruited varieties are somewhat poisonous, while the ripe blue or black-fruited elderberries are edible and safe. Since the generally edibility is not entirely clear, try only a small quantity when you first eat the berries.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Elderberry