Sambucus racemosa (Red elderberry)

Deciduous aromatic shrub or small tree up to 20 ft. tall with bright red berries and creamy white flowers, blooming April to September. Occurs on well-drained deep, loamy nutrient rich soils along streambanks, ravines, swamps, moist forest openings and upland sites near wetlands; up to 12,000 ft. elevation. Common throughout its range, often occurring within conifer and alder communities. Densely rhizomatous pioneer, good for erosion control on moist sites. Sprouts from crown and rhizomes after disturbance and wildfire; some populations lack rhizomes. May be tolerant of heavy metal contaminated soils on mining and smelting sites. Provides cover and nesting for wildlife and berries feed numerous birds and small mammals. Palatability to livestock and wildlife varies due to the natural cyanide content of individual plants. Intolerant of heavy browsing. Native cavity nesting bees live inside the pithy stems of old dried growth. Hummingbirds forage flower nectar.


Sambucus racemosa (Red elderberry) map.png


Family: Caprifoliaceae

Duration: Perennial

Growth Habit: Shrub/tree

Native Status: Native

Growth Form: Multiple stem

Mature Height: 10-20 ft.

Bloom Color: White

Fruit/Seed Color: Red/black

Bloom Period: Spring

Annual Precipitation: 10-60 in.

Drought Tolerance: 

Shade Tolerance: Intermediate

Elevation: up to 9,500 ft.

Wetland Indicator Status: FACU

Fire Resistance: No

Fire Tolerance: Medium

Nitrogen Fixation: None


Coarse Texture: Yes

Medium Texture: Yes

Fine Texture: No

Salinity Tolerance: None

CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium

pH Range: 5.0-8.0


Seeds per Pound: 286,000

Seeding Rate:  PLS lbs/acre

Season: Fall

Days to Germination: