American Elderberry Tree
days to maturity:
plant spacing: 1 plant every 8 feet
sunlight requirements: 8-14 hours
look out for: elder shoot borer and aphids
harvest notes: prune to keep at harvestable height
Syrup made from the dark purple elderberry has long been popular as a folk remedy for colds with good reason. The berries are high in vitamin C, iron, bioflavonoids, essential fatty acids and antioxidants which strengthen the heart, improve circulation and boost skin health.
A warning from Jules, our resident herbalist: all fresh plant matter is mildly toxic and can cause nausea and or diarrhea. Even when using the berries and flowers, you want to ferment // apply heat to them before consuming.
Elderflowers are an excellent remedy for acute ailments like flus and fever. They’re diaphoretic, so they help promote sweating and perspiration. They reduce inflammation and are a diuretic, helping to eliminate toxins. Elderflowers have the ability to shorten the duration and severity of Flu symptoms. The flowers are also an anti-histamine meaning they can help relieve allergy symptoms.
Elderflowers are warmly fragrant and their naturally occurring yeast makes them well-suited for fermentation into sparkling wine. The flowers can also be brewed into a cordial by combining several handfuls of flowers with equal parts sugar and water, lemon juice and lemon zest. After boiling, allow the mixture to rest for several days before straining, then refrigerate. When harvesting elderflowers, collect them in the morning when they’re most fragrant, making sure to leave more than half of the flowers on the tree so they can mature into clusters of berries.
Elderberry trees are actually quite commonly found growing wild as “weeds” in ditches, swales, river banks and by roadsides because they love standing or moving water. These small trees can grow to about 12-15 feet tall and they spread through root suckers and runners so they can get a bit out of control if they are very happy in your yard. They can also be propagated easily from cuttings for this reason, just throw an 8 inch stem cutting into water and roots will burst out of the soft bark.