La’au Lapa’au | Food as Medicine: Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra, Adoxaceae)

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Plants commonly known as elder belong to the genus Sambucus and consist of 20-30 species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the Adoxaceae, or moschatel, family.1-3 Sambucus species are native to forested temperate and subtropical climates and grow to an average height of 32 feet (10 m).1,3 Elder shrubs have light brown or gray stippled bark and narrow, dark green pinnately compound leaves with five to nine toothed leaflets.2,4 In early summer, elder plants produce flat to roundish clusters of tiny, cream-white, saucer-shaped flowers. Depending on the species, the clusters of small fruits, botanically characterized as drupes, are blue-black, black, or red (and rarely, yellow or white).2,3 The only elder species with a history of culinary use are those that produce blue-black or black fruits. Elder species are highly adaptable and readily naturalize in an area, making them potentially invasive outside their native range.3 This…

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