Elderberry Tree Identification (Pics, Charts): Types, How To Grow, Dangers

Woman looking at a Elderberry tree after reading an identification and growing guide on how to grow elderberries and the dangers of raw elderberry bush fruit as well as the types of elderberries that can be consumed.

The paradoxical thing about wild berries and fruit-bearing trees is that while they can provide bountiful fruit harvests and aesthetic landscape benefits, they can also be dangerous, and the Elderberry Tree is an excellent example.

A typical Elderberry Tree is just under 13 feet, visually appealing on a residential landscape, bears plentiful fruit in as little as two years, and can be used as an effective privacy screen for your home against walker-by and neighbors. The Elderberry Tree is a tall and wide-spreading shrub; a plant, shrub, bush, vine, and tree are all essentially the same thing referred to by different names relative to height and dimensions.

The flowers and berries from the Elderberry Tree are tasty, fragrant, and edible, as long as they are prepared properly.

But elderberries, their leaves, bark, seeds, and various tree components contain low-potency toxins that can make you violently ill (and they’re even fatal in some cases) if you consume them raw.

Elderberry berries have to be cooked for a period of time to remove their pervasive toxic properties.

But don’t get too worried; the Elderberry Tree is ancient and renowned for its curative, culinary, and commercial benefits. And has been used by humans for thousands of years for agricultural cultivation, folk remedies, and culinary.

This complete guide explains Elderberry Tree identification using pics and charts and also lists the different types of Elderberries you can plant, how to grow it, and what are the possible dangers of consuming raw elderberry fruits.

The Elderberry Tree: A Short Primer

The Elderberry Tree, technically a shrub, has been used by humans of every culture and race for at least 5,000 years.1 Human beings may have been cultivating and farming the Elderberry Tree for even longer than before that, but the earliest historical evidence goes back to 3,000 B.C.E.

The tart-tasting and semi-bitter Elderberry is prized for its purplish-blue berries, its use in cuisine, and as a research tool in the science world.

Common Elderberry, American Elderberry, or Elderberry

(Sambucus canadensis)

Elderberry Tree in an oval border on a green background.
  • Characteristics: The Elderberry Tree is a tall shrub or bush species of the Adoxaceae family and is essentially a member of the honeysuckle family of plants.
  • Family: Adoxaceae
  • Genus: Sambucus
  • Leaf: Bipinnately, Pinnately, or Palmately
  • Bark: Light gray or brown color
  • Seed: Relatively large endocarp-covered seeds, Half of the Elderberry’s composition is its seed.
  • Blossoms: From Spring to mid-Summer
  • Fruit: Small berry-like drupes
  • Native Habitat: Brazil and Venezuela, North America
  • Height: 5 to 12 feet tall
  • Canopy: 6 to 12 feet wide
  • Type: Deciduous
  • Native Growing Zone: USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 8

Image Credit: janmaybach (wild-romantische Ostschweiz)25

The Elderberry and its tree organs have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. The Elderberry is also being used in modern science research studies to find treatments for cancer, heart disease, depression, and many other medical problems.2

Elderberry juice and pulp are vital components in the cough syrup and various over-the-counter liquid medicines you take for granted. It might be one of the most important medicinal research plants in history.

However, as a residential homeowner or property owner, the greatest benefit of planting an Elderberry Tree is that it is drought resistant, has a great privacy screen, fights against soil erosion, and will grant you bountiful Elderberry harvests if you take care of it. In this comprehensive Elderberry Tree guide, you will learn how to safely remove the inherent toxin.

It must be noted here that while the Elderberry Tree contains a notorious toxin, it is a low-level toxic threat. You would have to drink or drink a quarter of a cup to half a cup of raw or improperly processed Elderberry fruit or drink to become violently ill and require medical hospitalization.

There are no known medical records of people dying from ingesting raw Elderberry toxin. And theoretically speaking, you would probably need to ingest several pounds of raw elderberries to experience a life-ending medical crisis.

Still, Elderberry toxic poisoning is no walk in the park and could cause vomiting, diarrhea, severe stomach discomfort, and a hospital stay. As you will learn in this guide, you will need to cook elderberries on low heat for at least 30 minutes to under an hour depending to detoxify them.

Additionally, you will also learn how to properly identify an Elderberry Tree, some Elderberry species variants, how to grow it and take care of it, and the benefits and drawbacks of planting one. If you do plant one on your residential landscape, you will need to trim and prune it regularly and plant them at least six feet away from other plants as Elderberry Trees grow vine-line thickets that need to be trimmed as needed.

Finally, you will also learn how planting an Elderberry Tree can help incrementally reduce your local carbon footprint and fight the worsening crisis of climate change.

Elderberry Tree Classification Data

Modern scientists and archeologists have found Elderberry Tree remnants that go back over 5,000 years – the Elderberry Tree, as well as its cultivation and uses, are probably as old as humanity itself. The Elderberry Tree and Elderberry fruit have been central in historical symbolism components of human folklore, folk medicine, and superstition for millennia.

Humans of every race, nationality, and culture all over the world have been trying to mine medicinal secrets from the Elderberry Tree for thousands of years.

Sambucus canadensis is native to large swathes of the eastern portion of the United States,3 east of the Rock Mountains, Southeastern Canada, and parts of Bolivia in South America. However, there are species of Sambucus,5 of its variants, and subspecies that can be found all over the planet.

The name for the Elderberry Tree is probably derived from a very ancient Greek term, sambuce, which may have been the name of an ancient instrument.

What Does an Elderberry Look Like?

An Elderberry Tree can be a botanical master of disguise that looks like a lot of things except a typical tree. So, what does an Elderberry look like?

An Elderberry Tree can look like a tree, bush, shrub, or vine thicket that is dense with viney undergrowth.

The Elderberry Tree can have one or multiple stemmed trunks. It can grow up to 13 feet in height typically and features palmately, bipinnately, or pinnately green-colored leaves, white or tan-colored flowers, and deep black and purplish or blue drupes which are misnomered as berries.

Close-up view of an Elderberry Tree showcasing clusters of fruits and yellow green foliage on the branches.

(Image: enjoy_berlin23)

You are more likely to aesthetically mistake the Elderberry Tree for a very tall and multi-stemmed shrub or bush depending on the species. Technically and botanically speaking, a tree is a plant that is at least 13 feet or higher with a centralized woody trunk through which limbs and branches grow.

You find mentions in this guide of how to trim and prune your Elderberry Tree several times because it is an important tip. Elderberry Trees propagate by growing suckers that grow low along the ground and look like vines.

Elderberry Trees in the wild can also look like bushes or thickets that are thick with vine growth.

Is It an Elderberry Plant or Elderberry Bush?

The Elderberry Tree could technically be classified as an Elderberry bush, shrub, or small tree.

Still, a plant, shrub, bush, tree, vine, and plant are all just different variations of the same thing relative to size, aesthetics, dimensions, and required growing conditions.

Essentially, they are different expressions of similar botanical entities.

How To Identify Elderberry Tree Aesthetics and Characteristics

When considering how to identify Elderberry Tree characteristics, remember that it is deciduous and extremely drought-resistant.4 It can grow in wet and arid soils but the plant requires direct sunlight to grow optimally.

It is native to North America, South America, and Europe. It may have originated in Europe, but the plant now has variant species thriving all over the world.

Elderberry Tree Identification

For Elderberry Tree identification, a dead giveaway aesthetic that sets it apart is the fact that it is usually wider in width and canopy than in height. You may find them along riverbanks in the wild, but they are drought-resistant and can grow in indirect sunlight as well.

Elderberry Trees require regular pruning to ensure optimum fruiting of elderberries. Elderberry Trees are deciduous, meaning that their leaves fall off whenever the weather becomes cold or the plant experiences trauma or shock.

Elderberry Tree identification chart showing an Elderberry Tree with details of its height and Elderberry Tree leaves, Elderberry Tree flowers, Elderberry Tree fruits, and Elderberry Tree bark images along with short descriptions.

(Bark Image: YvonneHuijbens17)

Elderberry Trees live for two or three years and then die. You could identify Elderberry Trees in the wild by the fact that they propagate via growing basal shoots or suckers, that pop out of the grow near the plant’s root system.

These suckers will grow into canes that will eventually develop into thickets if they are not pruned.

As long as you plant your Elderberry Tree at least six to 12 feet away from trees and plants, it won’t develop vine-like thicket growth. So, some Elderberry Trees may look like multi-stemmed shrubs or bush thickets that are dense with viney undergrowth.

What Does an Elderberry Tree Look Like?

If you’re wondering, “What does an Elderberry Tree look like?” Here are some defining features to assist in recognizing it:

Elderberry Tree Leaves

It has long pinnate, bipinnate, or palmette leaves that are long and usually arranged as opposing pairs of seven leaves per stem end. Elderberry tree leaves can have anywhere between three to nine serrated leaves per stem end.

The leaves of the Elderberry Tree are green-colored.

Elderberry Fruit

Its signature namesake Elderberry fruit is a visually attractive and deep purplish blue or black shade. The more the Elderberry becomes ripe, the deeper shade of purple.

The unripe Elderberry can be pale or medium hues of green, purple, or a light fuchsia-red hue.

Elderberry fruit looks like a cross between a blueberry and a grape and is about 1/4th of an inch in diameter. Elderberries grow in drooping, stooped clusters on thin stems usually in the fall months.

Even though the Elderberry is called a berry, it is technically a drupe.6 Even though they grow in clusters, they are not aggregate drupes.

A drupe is a fruit with fruity flesh that encompasses a stone-like pit, or endocarp, that has a seed within it.7 Mangoes, coffee beans, olives, peaches, apricots, almonds, cashews, and plums are all fruit or plant products that can be classified as drupes.

Elderberry Tree Seeds

Each Elderberry contains three to five seeds within it; about half the weight and composition of the Elderberry is its seed components.

Elderberry Seedling

Elderberry Trees grow optimally as small cultivars, cuttings, or seedling plants grown in a nursery. Elderberry seedlings look like small, green wispy young plants and are hard to discern from similar small plants without the help of an expert.

Elderberry Tree Flower

Elderberry Tree flowers are dynamically visual, pleasantly fragrant, and relatively easy to recognize if you spot them as they bloom during spring and summer. Elderberry flowers also have the signature name of Elderflowers; Elderflowers create a striking contrast against the green-colored leaves of the Elderberry Tree.

Elderflowers grow on the branch tips of the tree. Elderflowers grow in aesthetically wispy clusters of small umbrella-shaped, six-petal arrays of domed flowers that are white, cream, or tan-colored.

These flowers are about less than a fourth of an inch wide and feature up to five stamens arranged around the center top of the flower. Elderflowers fall off in summer and are soon replaced by the growth of Elderberry drupe clusters.

Elder Tree and Elder Wood

An Elder Tree, an Elderberry Tree that aesthetically resembles a tree more than a shrub, bush, thicket, or vine, may have one or multiple trunks. The trunk may be gray or brown-colored and feature shallow fissures and age cracks, plate-like woody scaling, corky protrusions and bumps, and a shorter-than-usual trunk.

Some Elderberry Tree species can grow up to 30 feet tall but most don’t grow higher than 13 to 20 feet.

Elder Wood

Elder wood is relatively softer than other similar tree types. Young Elderberry branches and trees are greenish-yellow and hairless smooth until they mature.

Elderberry Tree wood is often used to create fine woodwind musical instruments and other fine wood products.

Elderberry Varieties (Elderberry Pictures)

Here are some of the Elderberry varieties, accompanied by Elderberry pictures:

1. Black Elderberry

The Black Elderberry is a subspecies of Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis.


Close-up view of a Black Elderberry tree, highlighting its black berries and vibrant green leaves on the branches.

(Image: Kapa6516)


Close-up of a Common Elderberry tree, showcasing its textured bark and black berry fruits.

(Image: YvonneHuijbens17)


2. Common Elderberry or American Elderberry Tree

The American Elderberry Tree is another name for Sambucus canadensis, which has been discussed comprehensively in this guide.


3. Black Lace Elderberry

Black Lace Elderberry is a subspecies of Sambucus nigra that is renowned for its ornamental aesthetics; it grows whitish-pink flowers set against purplish back leaves during bloom.


Close-up view of a Black Lace Elderberry, displaying its whitish-pink blossoms and deep green foliage.

(Image: Sonja-Kalee18)


Close-up of a Blue Elderberry Tree, showcasing its blue berries and green leaves on the branches.

(Image: J Brew19)


4. Blue Elderberry Tree

Blue Elderberry Tree, Sambucus cerulea, is native to the Northwestern United States and can grow up to 30 feet tall. This Elderberry species grows elderberries that aesthetically have a much lighter hue than traditional elderberries.


5. Adams Elderberry

Adams Elderberry, a subspecies of Sambucus canadensis, is renowned for its glossy, deep black elderberries.


Close-up view of a dense cluster of black berries from an Adams Elderberry tree.

(Image: Cmeusburger20)


6. Golden Elderberry

Golden Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis ‘Aurea’, is a subspecies of Common Elderberry that grows golden-colored leaves and red-colored elderberries.

How To Grow Elderberries

When exploring how to grow elderberries, note that Elderberry Tree, possibly as ancient as humanity, can thrive even with minimal care. However, it’s not a plant you can simply sow and neglect.

You need to employ a lot of botanical and landscape strategies before planting Elderberries. Due to the low-level toxicity of the plant, you have to employ precautions as well if you have small children in your family or small pets.

Close-up view of an Elderberry tree displaying light green buds, white blossoms, and vibrant green leaves.

(Image: Hans22)

For the purposes of this comprehensive guide, the growing techniques that will be shared with you mainly refer to the Elderberry Tree species American Elderberry (Sambucus canadenis) and European Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). There are about two dozen species of Sambucus trees and many of them, like Sambucus canadenis and Sambucus nigra are listed as replacements of the other or as subspecies because experts can’t find universal agreement on taxonomy classifications.

The point is that if you are going to plant Elderberry, use the common species or the alternates you will learn about later in this guide. Some species of Elderberry, like Sambucus callicarpa, also known as Sambucus racemosa, may have higher concentrations of toxins in their seeds than other species.8

More on Elderberry toxicity and how to neutralize it later.

Also, you must be patient when it comes to Elderberry Tree planting and growing. Elderberry Tree plants die every two to three years, so you must prune them annually to propagate new growth.

Additionally, it takes about 24 to 36 months before an Elderberry Tree will first start growing flowers and elderberries.

Start Planting After the Last of Winter Frost

Elderberry Trees are deciduous trees; they are plants that go into shock over stress and drop their leaves in cold weather. Make sure that you plant your tree in early or mid-spring when the last of the cold weather and the pervasive frost on the ground is over.

Otherwise, you will just stunt your progress or kill the seedling or cutting you’re trying to plant.

Elderberry Growing Conditions: Choose an Appropriate Planting Site

Considering the Elderberry Growing conditions, it’s evident that the Elderberry Tree is a hardy plant and will grow despite your best intentions. But if you live on residential property with a driveway, underground infrastructure, and nearby plants and trees, then you need to be strategic as to where you plant your Elderberry Tree.

The Elderberry Tree has pervasive roots, is very greedy when it comes to water, will crowd out and starve other nearby fauna for water and fertilizer resources, can become a dense thicket of vine-line cane growth, and may be a path obstacle that won’t produce enough fruit.

The Elderberry Tree, which is really a shrub or a bush, develops a very shallow root system that grows like an intertwined vine mat under the soil. Even though the Elderberry is not considered an aggressive weed, it acts like one.

Make sure that you plant your Elderberry Tree six to twelve feet from other plants, trees, and infrastructure. Elderberry Trees propagate themselves by growing suckers, vine-like roots, out of the ground that spread seeds and take in water.

As long as you appropriately space out your Elderberry Trees from other trees and fauna, then you don’t need to trellis them.

Be strategic and thoughtful about where you plant Elderberry Trees around your residential property. You don’t want the Elderberry Tree’s undergrowth canes growing up the sides of your house, strangling other plants and depriving them of water, damaging underground pipes, or cracking your driveway due to aggressive expansion.

If you aspire to plant Elderberry Trees commercially, then you will need enough farm space to plant Elderberry seedlings or cuttings six to eight feet apart by column and set 10 to 12 feet apart by rows.

If you want to make a dense Elderberry bush or hedge on your property, choose the spot carefully and remember you will need to keep to a regimented pruning schedule or they will grow out of hand.

Growing Elderberry

The Elderberry Tree prefers soil that is well-drained. Although they are considered drought-resistant, they do better when watered regularly, so make sure they are planted in well-draining soils.

The pH of the soil should range between 5 and 6.5 as the Elderberry Tree like mildly acidic soil.

You can find Elderberry Trees growing in the wild and near riverbanks, so they can grow under most soil conditions. But since this is your tree and it will grow on your property, make sure your soil is not too sandy or marshy.

You want the soil well-draining, but not draining so rapidly that your plant dries out rapidly between watering.

You don’t necessarily need to fertilize your Elderberry Tree during the first year of growth, but if you do, don’t overdo it. The Elderberry Tree needs nitrogen-rich fertilizer to grow optimally.

Elderberry seedlings and cuttings only need about four tablespoons of fertilizer while much more mature trees might require a pound or so.

You can incorporate fine and nutrient-rich compost or manure into the soil before you plant your tree or trees, but you probably don’t need to add any more for the first 12 months of growth.

Elderberry Trees only live for 24 to 36 months. You can continually propagate their growth through strategic pruning.

Watering Needs for Elderberry Tree Plants

To address the watering needs for Elderberry Tree plants, ensure you water them until the soil is moistened at least one inch deep. Water once a week.

If you are planting numerous Elderberry plants, then you will probably need an irrigation system.

Make sure that your soil is mulched too; mulch helps plants retain water that would otherwise be evaporated in ambient heat or wastefully trickled away via well-drained soil.

How Much Sunlight Does Elderberry Tree Need Each Day?

Elderberry Trees have existed for thousands of years of recorded history and have probably been around for as long as human beings have existed, so they are known to grow in sub-optimal conditions.

Wide-angle view of an Elder Tree in a front yard, with blossoming white flowers.

(Image: micakonrad24)

So, how much sunlight does Elderberry Tree need each day?

Your Elderberry Tree will grow in indirect sunlight. But you should plant it somewhere where it will receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight every day.

Plants and trees gain energy and create synthesized food via photosynthesis through direct sunlight exposure.

The greatest benefit of planting Elderberry Trees, besides their visually delightful ornamental properties, is getting the bountiful harvests of elderberries. So, make sure your plant gets enough sun for you to benefit when it’s time to harvest.

Planting Tips for Elderberry Tree

Make sure to plant your Elderberry seedlings or cuttings at least one to two inches deep in the soil.

If you notice that a seedling, cutting, or young Elderberry plant has broken or damaged roots, then prune or cut them away. Apply some root hormones to the damaged area before planting.

Make sure that the top layer of your soil, especially around the base and root ball areas, has a generous layer of mulch on top of it. Mulch helps to retain water, keeps weeds at bay, and adds extra nutrients to the soil.

Elderberry Trees need well-drained soil to thrive, but doing so may not be enough to help. The nourishing water that the Elderberry Tree needs could seep away into the well-drained soil before the plant can absorb all of it.

Mulch will absorb some of the water and keep it in place to incrementally drain into the soil. Mulch will also prevent water in the soil from evaporating too quickly into ambient heat.

Put down a good layer of mulch and your Elderberry Tree won’t dry out quickly in between watering.

A generous layer of top mulch is a well-known suppressant of weeds. The Elderberry Tree is notorious for propagating via suckers growing out of the ground and creeping along the ground; mulch will help suppress sucker growth and aid you during pruning.

A generous layer of mulch will also prevent your Elderberry Tree from competing with nearby plants for water and resources, as well as vice-versa.

As mulch decomposes it will also incrementally add nutrients to the soil as well. A fine layer of mulch could take anywhere from three to seven years to fully decompose.

By following these planting tips for Elderberry Trees, you can ensure a strong foundation for healthy growth and a bountiful harvest in the future.

Elderberry Plant Care: Prune Annually or As Needed

In terms of Elderberry plant care, it’s essential to note that Elderberry Tree plants have shallow roots that develop suckers, or basal shoots, that grow low to the ground like creeping vines to spread seeds and absorb water. If you do not prune the plant regularly, then your Elderberry Tree will become a bushy and overgrown thicket that grows and spreads out of control.

Bushy thicket-like Elderberry shrubs will grow elderberries, but not as optimally as a well-pruned plant.

Elderberry Trees, like many plants and trees that fruit, grow new canes annually after they begin fruiting. These new vine-like growths that will turn into stems are called primocanes.

An Elderberry Tree inside a fenced area, showcasing thick green foliage and blooming white flowers.

(Image: janmaybach25)

Primocanes are usually greenish in color and look like new growth.

After primocane flowers and fruits, they will become covered in gray or brown-colored nark and begin to start looking aged, old, and weathered. Primocanes become weathered-looking floricanes after fruiting a bountiful harvest.

After your Elderberry Tree provides you with a harvest, which could take anywhere between 24 to 36 months, you will have to prune and cut away floricanes annually or as needed. Floricanes won’t fruit as much as primocanes.

And floricanes will siphon much-needed energy away from the Elderberry Tree that could be used to nourish new primocane growth. So, remember to inspect your Elderberry plants after every harvest and prune away the weathered and tough-looking floricanes so that the green-colored and new-looking primocanes can flower and fruit for the next season.

How To Optimally Prune Elderberry Floricanes

You probably won’t need to prune your Elderberry Tree during the first 24 to 36 months of growth unless you notice overgrowth or uncontrolled sprawl. After that initial growing period, you may need to prune it every spring or as needed.

Start by inspecting the entire tree; cut away damaged, broken, or dead-looking canes. Then identify any old and weathered-looking canes, the floricanes, and cut those away.

Never cut away the newer and green-looking canes or the primocanes; those are the canes that will flower and fruit during the next harvest.

Growing Zones for Elderberry Tree (Where To Grow): What Is the Optimal Elderberry Tree Growing Zone?

The best Elderberry Tree growing zone could be anywhere in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 9. Some experts believe that the most optimal growing zones for Elderberry Tree (where to grow) could be anywhere within zones 4A through 10B as well.9

These zones provide the most conducive environment for the Elderberry Tree.

Elderberry Tree Growth Rate: How Long It Takes To Grow Elderberry Tree?

When considering how long it takes to grow Elderberry Tree, a well-cared-for Elderberry Tree plant can grow anywhere from 12 inches to 24 inches annually until it reaches its maximum height. Some Elderberry Trees can grow up to 20 to 30 feet, but most are just really tall multi-stemmed shrubs, bushes, or short trees that grow up to 13 feet.

Graphics of Elderberry Tree growth chart showing sapling to full grown images of the Elderberry Trees with their height range based on age.

And if you’re wondering, how long does it take for a tree to grow?

The growth will always depend on the species, but the Elderberry Tree growth rate should not take more than 36 to 48 months to grow to its optimal mature height under most circumstances.

Companion Plants for Growing Elderberry Tree

Companion plants for growing Elderberry Trees are essential since Elderberry Tree plants can often behave like greedy weeds that don’t coexist well with other plants. But there are several companion plants that you can plant nearby that can augment harvest yields, and plant health, enhance pollination, repel pests, and diversify your crop portfolio.

Just remember to plant potential Elderberry Tree plant companions 10 feet or more away from your Elderberry Tree plants.

One companion plant that you can plant directly under your Elderberry Tree as a mulch alternative is the White Clover. White Clover retains moisture, augments microbes to work in the soil, and fixes nitrogen as well.

White Clover has numerous medicinal properties and is edible too.

Wine Cap Mushrooms, and similar mushroom species, contain a plant-beneficial fungus called Mycorrhiza or Mycorrhizae.10 Mycorrhizae is a fungus that needs to develop a symbiotic relationship with a plant to gain carbohydrates for sustenance.

Meanwhile, the fungus will spread to nearby plants and help increase its overall root surface area which helps the plant absorb water and nutrients more optimally.

Plant nasturtiums or garlic several feet from your Elderberry Tree plant to help deter pests. Never plant fennel anywhere near Elderberry Tree plants; fennel emits a chemical that stunts the growth of nearby plants.

Is Growing an Elderberry Tree From a Seed a Good Idea?

No, growing an Elderberry Tree from a seed is a distinct process. There are many plants that will grow after you plant a seed an inch or two into the soil and walk away.

The Elderberry Tree is not one of those plants. Elderberry Tree plants need a germination process that can last anywhere between seven months and up to 24 months before you can even plant them in the ground.

Germination is just the process by which a seed becomes a seedling. If you mess up the germination process it could take years before you can plant from seed.

Germination is a process where the seeds experience a warming and dormancy-inducing winter cycle that mimics the natural growth cycle in nature plants depend on to grow. Elderberry Tree seeds have a thick seed coat, so they may need to be germinated twice before planting.

First, you need to put the seeds in a bucket or zip-lock baggie with sand, soil, and compost. Then, leave it somewhere with a moderate temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21.1 degrees Celcius.

You need to leave it alone for about 12 weeks.

Next, place the seeds in the refrigerator or even the freezer for at least 16 weeks. The interior of the refrigerator needs to be at least 39 degrees Fahrenheit or about 4 degrees Celsius.

Next, place them into a nursery-like seedbed and wait for the seeds to sprout into seedlings. This process could take at least 24 months.

Finally, you can plant your Elderberry Tree seedlings. Unless you are an experienced gardener or botanist and have the patience of a saint, then you may want to enlist the help of an arborist or skip this process.

Growing an Elderberry Tree From a Cutting

Growing an Elderberry Tree from a cutting involves using a piece of a plant or tree that was cut away from an already established plant. You can get a cutting from a botanist or someone with a mature Elderberry Tree.

You may need to apply root hormones to the cut portion of the cutting, but then, all you have to do is plant it.

Growing an Elderberry Tree From a Seedling

Growing an Elderberry Tree from a seedling is often recommended, as the best way to grow an Elderberry Tree is through a seedling you can buy from a nursery.

Best Growing Conditions for Elderberry Tree

To achieve the best growing conditions for Elderberry Tree, ensure it is planted in an area that receives at least eight hours of direct sunlight. To achieve the best possible growing results, make sure to plant it in an area with at least eight hours of direct sunlight.

Elderberry Tree Disease Prevention

In the context of Elderberry Tree Disease Prevention, it’s noteworthy that while the Elderberry Tree is very hardy, it can sometimes be susceptible to disease. One such disease is called Elderberry Rust, which is a fungus called Puccinia sambuci.13

Elderberry Rust does not kill the tree, but it causes brown spotting to occur on leaves, makes the tree weak, and causes it to grow less bountiful Elderberry harvests. Elderberry rust is caused by infected plants releasing spores that infect nearby plants and fauna.

Strategic pruning and fungicide are the only things that kill Elderberry Rust.

Is It Safe To Eat Raw Elderberries?

If you’re wondering, is it safe to eat raw Elderberries? The answer is no; never eat raw elderberries.

Elderberry fruit and flowers, as well as every part of the Elderberry Tree, contain low-level toxin chemical elements called alkaloids, calcium oxalate crystals, and cyanogenic glycosides. After ingesting raw elderberries or flowers, these toxins will eventually metabolize into cyanide.

Elderberries and flowers also contain the toxic substance lectins which can cause extreme stomach discomfort, cramps, or worse. As long as you cook the elderberries on a low simmering heat for at least 45 minutes then the dangerous effects of the toxins will be nullified.

Close-up of an opened small jar filled with Elderberry juice, placed on a table with Elderberry fruits and leaves beside it.

(Image: RitaE21)

Even though raw Elderberry is full of low-level toxins and is not safe to consume, the plant is usually not life-threatening within itself. However, eating raw elderberries can cause severe diarrhea, stomachaches, abdominal cramps, physical weakness, and vomiting, and perhaps an extended hospital stay to purge them from your system.

The same toxins found in elderberries are also found in apricot seeds and almonds. The exact same toxins can be found in cassava root; tapioca is derived from cassava.

For example, lectin, a compound that can cause similar effects, is found in raw kidney beans. That is why you need to soak kidney beans for at least half a day to neutralize the lectin.

Raw cashews contain a toxin called urushiol, the same caustic toxin that is found in Poison Ivy plants. Cashews are so expensive because they have to be heavily processed.

Human beings eat a lot of foods that need inherent toxins removed.

As long as you strain out the seeds and cook the Elderberry for at least 45 minutes, then the toxins will be neutralized.

Are There Official Records of Deaths From Elderberry Tree Fruit Poisoning

You should always take the detoxification of elderberries very seriously. If you are suffering from other medical conditions, then you could die from consuming raw elderberries.

However, there is no record of anyone ever dying from eating raw Elderberry, only becoming violently ill. And you would have to go out of your way to eat copious amounts of raw Elderberry to die from it.

The only reported case of severe Elderberry poisoning occurred in 1983 in Monterey, California. Twenty-five people fell violently ill after consuming improperly detoxified Elderberry juice at a gathering.11

All the poisoned individuals survived the poisoning after a short hospital stay.

The most recent public account of Elderberry poisoning occurred in 2019 in New York City. A Columbia University professor accidentally poisoned herself after trying to concoct a homemade flu remedy containing improperly detoxified elderberries.12

Elderberry poisoning is no trivial matter; if you are suffering from other severe and underlying medical conditions, then you could die eating raw elderberries.

However, a healthy and physically fit person weighing 130 pounds would have to eat over 13 pounds of raw elderberries in order for the human body to metabolize the inherent toxins into cyanide for death to occur. The more you weigh, the more raw elderberries you would have to consume to court death.

While your chances of dying are not high, don’t take the chance; always simmer raw Elderberry on low heat for 45 minutes before consuming or making Elderberry-derived food products.

Is There a Poison Test To Check for Toxins in Wild Berries?

Yes, but you should not use it. The poison test requires you to eat one or two wild berries to see if you fall ill or rub it on your skin to see if it causes a caustic reaction.

Rubbing an Elderberry probably won’t cause a visible reaction on your skin.

Never taste test wild elderberries; always cook them for 45 minutes before consuming. And never use a poison test in the wild.

Elderberry Tree Facts

Here are some Elderberry Tree facts that you should know.

  • Elderberry Tree facts reveal that one cup of properly detoxified Elderberry juice contains over 58% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Elderberries are also very high in antioxidants which have been scientifically proven to slow down aging.
  • Elderberries have over triple the amount of antioxidants than blueberries.
  • Elderberry syrup is used as an ingredient in a lot of cough syrup products. And modern science conducts a lot of experiments with elderberries to see if they can help solve a lot of modern medical problems.
  • Scientific research is being conducted to see if elderberries can be used to shield humans from UV radiation, stop cancer, protect against bacterial infections, boost the immune system, act as an antidepressant, and help heart health. Unfortunately, such scientific aspirations are still in the research stage and have yet to be proven via human test trials.

Elderberry Tree Symbolism

The Elderberry Tree symbolism and folklore vary according to region. The tree was seen as a good luck charm millennia ago; in other places, the Elderberry Tree was considered a place where witches or evil spirits congregated.

In some folklore, the Elderberry Tree was seen as a protective symbol of power, and if you cut it down, then a vengeful supernatural force known as Elder Mother would haunt you.

Hippocrates, the Greek physician, and philosopher after whom the Hippocratic Oath is named, called the Elderberry Tree the equivalent of a medicine cabinet back in 400 B.C.E.14

As previously mentioned, there are many fruits and vegetables that contain toxins that must be neutralized before consumption. Such foods include cashews, cassava, kidney beans, and so on.

An Elderberry Tree is aesthetically beautiful, has a natural carbon sequestration engine, and will provide you with Elderberry harvests.

You can safely grow an Elderberry Tree as long you monitor them, keep curious kids and pets away.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Elderberry Tree

Is It an Elderberry Tree or Bush?

When discussing the Elderberry Tree or bush, it’s important to recognize that the terms refer to the same plant and only differ in size and form.


How Many Pounds of Elderberries Can Be Harvested Per Plant?

You could harvest as much as 15 pounds of elderberries per tree annually if you maintain them well.


How Can Safety Be Maintained Around an Elderberry Tree?

Make sure that young children understand the danger of the tree if you grow it, or reconsider. You may have to reconsider growing one if you have small curious pets as well.


Can Planting an Elderberry Shrub Help Fight Climate Change?

Yes, shrubs are known for absorbing more carbon dioxide from the environment than trees or soil. If you can plant shrubs along 2.4 acres of land, then the shrubs will absorb over 15 tons of carbon dioxide annually.15


How Many Types of Trees Are There?

Although there is no way to verify this answer since new species are being discovered all of the time, there may be over 60,000 types of trees on Earth.


How Long Does It Take for a Tree To Grow?

The average tree can take anywhere between 15 to 30 years to mature and reach its maximum height.


Is Watering a Tree Necessary?

Unless it is a young tree, watering a tree is not necessary.


Where Should You Grow a Tree?

Only grow a tree on a property with room for the tree to expand and grow without disturbing neighboring trees and plants.


Do Trees Have Genders?

To answer the question, “Do trees have genders?”, it’s essential to consider the specific species of the tree. Some trees are male, or hermaphroditic based on species.


Is a Blackberry Tree a Suitable Elderberry Tree Substitute?

Yes, but you need to trellis young Blackberry Tree.


How Does Tree Pollination Occur?

In the process of tree pollination, like flowers, tree pollen falls onto a pollinator, like a bee, that transfers the pollen to another tree. Sometimes the pollen spreads in the wind.


Is Mulching Around Trees Necessary?

It doesn’t hurt. Mulching around trees helps retain their moisture and suppress weed infiltration.


Do Drought Tolerant Trees Need Less Watering?

No. Drought tolerant trees may just require less watering than a typical tree.


What Are the Ways on How To Stop Elderberry Tree Disease?

To learn how to stop elderberry tree disease, have a licensed and professional arborist inspect your property to make sure there are no Elderberry rust infections, or similar tree diseases, on your property before planting. Never overwater your plants.


What Are the Common Pests of the Elderberry Tree?

Common pests of the Elderberry Tree are borers, aphids, mites, sawfly larvae, and beetles.


What Are the Natural Pest Control for Elderberry Tree?

The only natural pest control for Elderberry Tree you may be able to do is to inspect and remove any leaves or stems that seem infected with pests or larvae. When in doubt, always consult an arborist.


Can You Eat Elderberries?

To those wondering, can you eat elderberries? Yes, as long it is detoxified after being cooked for 45 minutes.


How Long Does It Take an Elderberry Tree To Bear Fruit?

Expect to wait anywhere between 24 and 36 months before your Elderberry Tree bears fruit.



1Krakau, L. (2020, January 30). The history of Elderberry & how it came to be. KNWA. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://www.nwahomepage.com/knwa/web-extra-the-history-of-Elderberry-how-it-came-to-be/>

2Mandl, E. (2023, February 2). Elderberry: Benefits and Dangers. HealthLine. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/Elderberry>

3Wikipedia. (2023, June 15). Sambucus canadensis. Wikipedia. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus_canadensis>

4Clatterbuck, W. K. (2023). Drought-Tolerant Trees. Agricultural Extension Service The University of Tennessee. Retrieved  August 14, 2023, from   <https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/documents/sp570.pdf>

5Wikipedia. (2023, July 31). Sambucus. Wikipedia. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus>

6Penn State Extension. (2022, February 24). Elderberry in the Garden and the Kitchen. Penn State Extension. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://extension.psu.edu/Elderberry-in-the-garden-and-the-kitchen>

7Wikipedia. (2023, June 9). Drupe. Wikipedia. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drupe>

8Wikipedia. (2023, June 17). Sambucus racemosa.  Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus_racemosa_subsp._racemosa>

9UF Gardening Solutions. (2021). Elderberry. UF Gardening Solutions. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/fruits/Elderberry.html>

10University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2023). Mycorrhizae. Wisconsin Horticulture. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/mycorrhizae/>

11Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1984, April 6). Poisoning from Elderberry Juice — California. MMWR Weekly. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000311.htm>

12Fitz-Gibbon, J. (2019, September 25). Columbia professor’s homemade flu remedy seriously backfires. NY Post. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://nypost.com/2019/09/25/columbia-professors-homemade-flu-remedy-seriously-backfires/>

13Warmund, M. (2017, November). Elderberry Rust. MU Extension. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/ipm1036>

14Williams, M. (2021, November 17). Plant of the Month: Elderberry. JSTOR Daily. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://daily.jstor.org/plant-of-the-month-Elderberry/>

15Matthews, A. (2020, February 4). How shrubs can help solve climate change. BBC. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from   <https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200203-the-south-african-plant-fighting-climate-change>

16Photo by Kapa65. Pixabay. Retrieved from   <https://pixabay.com/photos/elderberries-black-elder-418754/>

17Photo by YvonneHuijbens. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Pixabay. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from   <https://pixabay.com/photos/elderberry-tree-trunk-forest-nature-4477473/>

18Photo by Sonja-Kalee. Pixabay. Retrieved from   <https://pixabay.com/photos/sambuccus-nigra-black-lace-5276026/>

19Photo by J Brew. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Resized and Changed Format. Flickr. Retrieved from   <https://www.flickr.com/photos/93452909@N00/2915821677>

20Photo by Cmeusburger. (CC BY-SA 3.0). Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from   <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sambucus_canadensis.jpg>

21Photo by RitaE. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/elder-elderberries-berry-juice-4434794/>

22Photo by Hans. Pixabay. Retrieved from   <https://pixabay.com/photos/elderberry-buds-bud-black-elder-474754/>

23Photo by enjoy_berlin. Pixabay. Retrieved from   <https://pixabay.com/photos/elderberry-fruits-berries-food-6819647/>

24Photo by micakonrad. Pixabay. Retrieved from   <https://pixabay.com/photos/fountain-pierre-elderberry-744322/>

25Zurich Peninsula-au Elderberry Tree Photo by janmaybach (wild-romantische Ostschweiz). (2020, May 22) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://pixabay.com/photos/zurich-peninsula-au-elderberry-tree-5205119/>