Scientific Name: Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis
Synonyms: Sambucus caerulea var. mexicana, S. canadensis, S. cerulea var. mexicana, S. mexicana, S. orbiculata, S. simpsonii
Common Names: American Black Elderberry, Common Elderberry, Mexican Elder
Duration: Perennial, Semi-evergreen (drought deciduous)
Growth Habit: Tree, Shrub
Arizona Native Status: Native
Habitat: Desert, Upland, Riparian. It grows along streams, rivers, and washes.
Flower Color: Cream
Flowering Season: Spring, Summer (early)
Height: To 30 feet (9.1 m) tall
Description: The flowers are clustered in flat-topped, compound cymose, terminal panicles. The individual flowers are small and have 5 lobes. The flowers are followed by round, black to powdery blue berries that are enjoyed by birds. The leaves are pinnately compound with 3 to 9 green, lanceolate-ovate, serrate leaflets, including a terminal leaflet. The bark is ridged and light gray-brown in color.
The similar Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) has domed flower panicles and red fruit.
Culturally Significant Plant – Native Americans used the ripe berries and the flowers for food and for medicinal purposes.
Edible – The ripe blue or black berries and the aromatic flowers are edible, but the other parts of the plant are poisonous. The sweet, juicy berries can be made into jelly, sauce, elderberry wine, or used in pies.
Fragrant – The flowers are fragrant and aromatic.
Poisonous – The leaves, stems, and green, unripe berries are poisonous and contain the toxic alkaloids hydrocyanic acid and sambucine.
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family: Caprifoliaceae – Honeysuckle family
Genus: Sambucus L. – elderberry
Species: Sambucus nigra L. – black elderberry
Subspecies: Sambucus nigra L. ssp. canadensis (L.) R. Bolli – American black elderberry
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