Elderberry, Elder, Sureau du Canada
• Legend and Lore • In the Garden

Sambuccus canadensis


  • Native to Eastern North America
  • Shrub zone Canada 3- 9
  • 1.5- 4M
  • Prefers moist soils, drought tolerant, full sun to light shade
  • Blooms early summer
  • Fruits in August – September

Legend and Lore

According to legend the Elder was the tree Judas was hanged from in the Bible, a tree for good luck when planted outside your front door and to protect you from witches. Elders are never to be struck by lightning, casting the leaves in the wind while evoking a person will bring a blessing. You must ask permission from the Elder before pruning to avoid offending their spirits; it is also reputed to be used by witches. Overgrown elders are often spotted on abandoned farmstead framing doorways and giving credence to the lore.

Whistles, drinking straws, pipe stems, spigots for tapping sap from trees also Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” as with Pan’s flute and other flutes are made from the wood, “Sambuca” derived from the Greek is an ancient musical instrument in where other species of elderberry native to Europe and Asia. Berries feed our stomachs and our soul, highly prized for its medicinal, spiritual and culinary uses, rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, potassium an iron. Crushed leaves were used to make a mosquito repellant or boiled to make a pest deterrent for plants.

In the Garden

Fast growing multi stem shrub, often rounded with arcing branches, suckers profusely and is good for naturalizing in sun or light shade. Prefers moist soil but is drought tolerant. Leaves are opposite, pinnate usually 7 leaflets measuring 5 to 15cm, sharply serrated usually dark green in the summer to yellow in the fall on yellowish grey/brown stems heavily lenticellate. Flowers whitish flat cymes scented covering the whole shrub, fruits purple-black drupes in August-September; bird netting is essential if you want to harvest – birds will pick over everything in 1 day when ripe!

In the Kitchen