Sambucus canadensis, the American black elderberry, is a species of elderberry 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 taller. 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.
Uses for the fruit include medicinal purposes based on their medicinal virtues: The bark, leaves, flowers and berries (high in Vitamin C-supports immune function) all have medicinal properties so they not only have proved their usefulness over thousands of years but are a valuable remedy in modern herbal medicine as well, wine, jelly and dye. Leaves and inner bark can be used as an insecticide and a dye. Stems can be hollowed out and used for spouts, musical instruments, and toys.
Leaves, stems, roots, and unripe fruits of S. canadensis are toxic due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides and alkaloids.
Research on elderberries is being conducted at the University of Missouri’s South West Center in Mount Vernon and at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station in Mountain Grove.
All information provided is for informational purposes only. Please seek professional advice before medicinal use of any plants.