Sambucus nigra | ‘Elder’, ‘Elderberry’ | 25 seeds
Located within the Adoxaceae family, Sambucus nigra is a flowering deciduous species/complex which is native to much of Europe and North America. The species is known by several informal names, including ‘Black Elder’, ‘Elder’, ‘Elderberry’, ‘European Black Elderberry’, ‘European Elder’ and ‘European Elderberry’.
‘Elderberry’ is a shrub or small tree, covered in grey bark (which darkens as the plant matures) and growing to approximately ten metres tall by six or so metres broad. Lush, paired green leaves – serrated along their edges and up to roughly thirty centimetres or so long – sprout from the plant’s stems, followed by large (up to roughly twenty-five centimetres in diameter) clusters of tiny, white to whitish flowers (usually approximately six or seven millimetres across and pollinated by flies). Dark purple to black, glossy berries, slightly smaller than the plant’s flowers, are borne in trailing clusters in autumn. While the ripe berries are edible – and an essential food source for a number of birds and other animals – the rest of the plant (except for the flowers) is toxic to mammals. Note that this includes the ripe seeds contained in an otherwise edible ripe berry!
There are several recognised subspecies of nigra, including Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis and Sambucus nigra subsp. caerulea. Furthermore, there are also a number of popular ornamental species cultivars, some of which have been given the British Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Typical natural habitats for this species include hedges, roadsides, scrubland, wasteland and woodland in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-7. While it’s not too fussy about growing in wet or dry soil, it does prefer somewhere that receives a fair amount of sunlight.
Apart from its cultivation as an ornamental, Sambucus nigra has a long history of culinary use (at least, the ripe berries and flowers do) and has for many years been used by healers of various traditions. For example, over the centuries, parts of the plant have been used to treat ailments such as bronchitis and other respiratory problems, cold and flu, fever, gastrointestinal distress and viral infection. Non-medicinally, the Anglo-Saxons used ‘Elderberry’ stems (hollow when young) as fire-bellows.
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced