Darrell Blackwelder: Elderberry blooms are popular for teas, syrups and wine

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2023

Along roads in Rowan County the embankments, thickets, marshes and byways are dotted with large, white blooms of elderberry shrubs. Elderberry is a native, deciduous shrub with showy spectacular blooms, very similar to viburnum and Queen Anne’s Lace.  Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is actually a member of the honeysuckle family and grows in almost any type of soil, however it seems to grow best in areas of medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun or slightly shaded areas. It’s a deciduous shrub that can reach a height of 4-10 feet. This bloomer is also a pollinator, providing nectar and berries for our native butterflies and bird populations.

Now these showy roadside shrubs will soon be laden with dark berries. Historically, pioneers utilized this shiny black fruit as a remedy for rheumatism and flu symptoms. Elderberry fruits and blooms have become very popular and are now grown commercially for teas, gummies, jams, jellies, syrups and wines. The elderberry is also a popular fruit in European countries used in pastries, pies, jams and juices. Rock star Elton John even wrote a song about the popularity of elderberry wine.

Please note that consumption of unripe elderberries can cause serious side effects including vomiting and diarrhea. Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/sambucus-canadensis/ for more detailed information about this interesting native plant.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.