Elder (Sambucus nigra)

Elder is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 10 metres tall. It has large flat clusters of white flowers in June and July, followed by purplish-black elderberries that ripen in August and

The elder should not be confused with the alder (a tree of damp conditions).

Elderflower cordial and elderberry wine are popular uses of the flowers and fruit.The Romans used elderberry juice as a hair dye and elderberry syrup makes an effective cold remedy.

The word elder comes from the Anglo Saxon word aeld meaning “fire”.The hollow stems of the young branches were used for blowing air into a fire.The stems have also been used to
make simple flutes, whistles and peashooters.

Some people find elder flowers fragrant, others think the smell is unpleasant. However they are very popular with insects, and the berries are sought after by birds.The leaves are also very pungent and ironically, these make an effective insect repellent.


In Denmark the tree was associated with magic; a dryad called the Elder-tree mother was supposed to live in its branches. If furniture was made from the wood, the Elder-tree mother
would follow and haunt the owners.To avoid this she must be asked before the wood is cut.