Elder Tree Sambucus

Elder Tree ( Sambucus )

Its botanical name is Sambucus nigra L, belonging to the family of the Caprifoliaceae, which includes shrubs, trees or lianas .

The Elder tree Sambucus is a tree originally from Europe and was introduced by the Spaniards who brought it to America in the sixteenth century.


Elder Tree (Sambucus) Characteristics

The Elder tree Sambucus has two subspecies, the Sambucus peruviana and the Mexican Sambucus. The name “Sambucus” comes from the Greek Sambuca, which was a musical instrument used by the Romans and was built with the wood of this tree, and “Nigra”, is an adjective that refers to the black color of ripe fruit.

It is a plant of about 6 to 10 m in height, its leaves are opposite, pinnate, very flexible and measure from 20 cm to 30 cm in length and have a regularly serrated edge. Its trunk is inclined, thick with rough bark and thick branches and the outer bark is cracked and ash brown.

The flowers are fragrant and grouped in terminal clusters of 15 called corimbos ; Each flower, hermaphrodite, has 5 petals in the shape of a star.

The fruits are berries with a globose, fleshy shape, measuring approximately 9 cm in diameter, they are juicy and edible . Its fruit produces a reddish to blackish tint when it is mature and on the contrary when it is immature, the dye is blue, purple or violet, counting 3 to 5 seeds each.

The parts that have medicinal and alimentary functions are the flowers and the ripe fruits. Caution should be exercised with Elderberry because its bark, leaves, seeds and immature fruits can become poisonous.

Cultivation and Collection of Elder

The Elder tree Sambucus adapts very well in areas of humid forests and resists heavy frosts.

It can be propagated by seeds and by vegetative reproduction, it presents sexual hermaphroditism, so it usually emits propagules in the most superficial roots for its multiplication. The most common form of reproduction is vegetative reproduction.

Spring is the best season for the collection of flowers , its drying process is in the shade and must be kept in a cool, dry and dark place, apart, the fruits should be collected when they are black hanging from the branches, that is at the end of summer or early autumn.

In the nursery should be applied abundant watering and keeping the substrate moist, but avoiding excess. Planting can be done directly in the lot or by transplanting seedlings from the nursery. A hole is made in the soil according to the size of the bag that was used in the nursery.

Composition, uses and properties

Elderberry is grown for ornamental, food, artisanal and medicinal purposes in temperate and cold climates.

The ripe fruits or berries are composed of organic pigments, anthocyanins, fiber, phosphorus, glucose, fructose and potassium. Each 50 g of fresh fruit provide between 9-13 mg of vitamin C and 32.5 mg of vitamin B. It has magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium .

They are edible wild fruits, both the skin and the pulp can be eaten. With the fruits are made jams and are also used for medicinal uses in syrups, laxatives and depuratives, to reduce cholesterol and improve vision, also has anti-inflammatory properties useful for neuralgia, headache, abdominal pain and sciatica.

It is recommended to cook the berries even a little , to improve their flavor and to be able to do better digestion.

The syrup can be prepared as follows:

The juice of the ripe fruit is extracted or squeezed and the seeds are strained, beware of the seeds since they are toxic, to then cook for about 10 minutes , when cooled, it is packaged and kept refrigerated. Take 2 to 3 tablespoons a day.

Research conducted at the University of Graz in Austria, found that the extract of the berry, reduces the oxidation of low density lipoprotein cholesterol involved in atherogenesis, which helps to fight cardiovascular disease.

On the other hand, green fruits contain a toxic principle called sambunigrina, so they should not be consumed until they are well ripe . Likewise, this toxic principle is presented by the leaves, bark and seeds of the elderberry.

The leaves should not be consumed since they are highly toxic and in relation to their uses, it has been observed that in the crops they repel mice, moles and vermin , likewise, burned they are an effective insecticide.

In infusion can be used as a mosquito repellent and sprinkled on the plants serves as protection against aphids and caterpillars.

For the control of plagues the preparation can be done of the following way:

Boil one liter of water and 225 g. of leaves of Elderberry for 20 minutes, strain and let cool, then add a teaspoon of liquid or powder detergent and finally placed in an atomizer.

The flowers are edible , they are used in gastronomy to aromatize and prepare in various ways in tisanes, jellies, jams, ice cream, cookies or in combination with other herbs. For a long time wine has been obtained , where macerated gives an aromatic smell and a vintage flavor.

The flowers are composed of essential oil, flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, vitamin C and minerals. They have diaphoretic properties   and act on the bronchial epithelium, exerting an irritant effect that increases the production of bronchial-alveolar secretions, which is why it is effectively used for the treatment of the common cold and anti-flu processes.


Studies have determined that the elderberry flavonoids have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunological properties , since these help to increase the production of cytokines in monocytes, thus stimulating the immune system.

The flowers can be used to make cleansing creams and remove blemishes on the skin.

The flowers and fruits have antiseptic and bactericidal properties , serve for pyorrhea, gingivitis and pharyngitis, with the infusion can be done mouth rinses and gargles. They serve to disinfect wounds or relieve burns.

Traditionally flowers are attributed a galactogogo effect, that is, they stimulate milk production due to their protein balance , which contributes to breastfeeding.

The Elder tree Sambucus wood is quite resistant, highly valued for cabinetmaking and the preparation of agricultural tools . Because of the ease with which the marrow is extracted from the branches, they are used for the manufacture of flutes, canutillos, blowpipes and for firewood.

Finally, the various uses mentioned above allow to check that the Elderberry has been traditionally used for multiple purposes . As can be seen, all parts of the tree have characteristics with a lot of potential to be used by humans.

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

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