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A picture of a Common Elder

Common Elder

Sambucus nigra

Also known as

Elderflower Tree, Arn Tree, Black Elder, Boon Tree, Boor Tree, Bore Tree, Bour Tree, Elderberry, European Elder, Pipe Tree, Elder, Bourtree

Sambucus nigra 4 by Franz Xaver (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Full Sun
Moderate care
Moderate watering
Frost Hardy


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size









  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

Flowers - early summer. Berries - late summer, early autumn.The first two years after planting elderberry bushes, do not bother picking the berries.

More images of Common Elder

A close up of some white Sambucus nigra flowers
A close up of a Sambucus nigra plant in flower
A photo of Common Elder
A photo of Common Elder
A photo of Common Elder

Common Elder Overview

Sambucus nigra is also commonly known as Elderberry, Common Elder and Elderflower Tree, amongst many other names. It is a large shrub or small tree species from the Viburnaceae family. Elderberry plants produce divided foliage, the leaves turn an attractive yellow colour in the autumn. Flowers are scented and creamy-white in colour, appearing from early summer. Flowers lead onto small, black, berry fruits. Easy to grow in most soils, it thrives in humus-rich sites in full sun locations. 'Elder' is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Aeld', meaning fire, probably developed because the center of elder stems was used as tinder to start fires. It's easy propagation and resistance to pests explains the popularity of Elders with gardeners. Interesting for a shrub, valued highly by carpenters for making skewers, mathematical instruments and toys. It is also highly valued in the medicinal world.

Common problems with Common Elder

Elder white wash fungus : use Fungicides or sprays containing copper; Glasshouse red spider mite - identify early on as it can be difficult to control as it breeds rapidly in warm conditions, use pesticides containing acetamiprid; verticillium wilt -sanitize all equipment on a regular basis, rotate with non-susceptible crops.

Common Elder Companion Plants

Grows well with other berries such as gooseberries.

How to propagate Common Elder


Birds are the main dispersal agent of seeds by both regurgitation or defecation after eating the berries. Cross pollination is necessary. Sow seeds in the Spring. Plant seedlings one meter apart in rows that are about 4 meters apart.


Hard or softwood cuttings are used

Special features of Common Elder

Hedge plant

A good choice for a hedge as the flexible branches can easily be trimmed and set. Offering protection against wind and ideal habitat for birds.

Repels harmful insects

The leaves are used as an insect repellent.

Attracts useful insects

Autumn colour

Other uses of Common Elder

Elderberry has medicinal and culinary uses. An ointment can be made to use on chilblains, sprains and bruises.


The leaves, flowers, fruits and root extracts are used to treat bronchitis, coughs, upper respiratory infections and fever. Infusions of the flower are used for colds, sinusitis, fevers and hay fever.


The dark purple berries can be eaten when fully ripe and are used to make jam, jelly and chutney. Elderberry cordial is made from Elderberry flowers.

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