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Sambucus racemosa, Red Berry Elder


Red elder was widely employed medicinally by various native North American Indian tribes, who used it to treat a range of complaints. Edible fruit & flowers.

The leaves are used to repel insects.

Wood - commonly used in the manufacture of various domestic items. It can also be hollowed out to make flutes, pipes, straws etc.

Tolerates most soils, including chalk, but prefers a moist loamy soil. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates some shade but is best in a sunny position. Prefers cool moist conditions. Tolerates atmospheric pollution and coastal situations.

Sow in the spring in a cold frame but will probably germinate better if it is given 2 months warm followed by 2 months cold stratification first. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If good growth is made, the young plants can be placed in their permanent positions during the early summer. Otherwise, either put them in a sheltered nursery bed, or keep them in their pots in a sheltered position and plant them out in spring of the following year.

Edible uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked. This species is said to have the tastiest fruit in this genus, it is somewhat reminiscent of red currants though the fruit is considerably smaller and contains many seeds. Rich in vitamin C, the seed can be removed and the fruit used in jellies, preserves etc. The fruit is about 5mm in diameter and is borne in large clusters, making it easy to harvest.

Some caution is advised with one report saying the seeds should be removed before the fruit is eaten - although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the leaves and stems of some, if not all, members of this genus are poisonous. The fruit of this species has been known to cause stomach upsets to some people. Any toxin the fruit might contain is liable to be of very low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked. The seed is said to be poisonous.

Flowers - raw or cooked.


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