Red Elderberry – Native Plant Spotlight

Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)

Red elderberry is a favorite of native wildlife. It ranges in size from a shrub to a small tree, reaching a maximum height of around 20 feet tall. It can grow in sun or partial shade and either dry or moist soil, making it a very versatile plant. The large deciduous leaves are divided into 5-7 lance-shaped leaflets. Conical clusters of white flowers grow into small bright red fruits.

Please note: all parts of the red elderberry are toxic to humans and should not be eaten. The same applies to livestock (cattle, horses, sheep) and pets (dogs, cats, etc.). Despite the danger to humans and pets, red elderberry is widely used by native wildlife. The berries are eaten by a variety of birds, including thrushes, tanagers, and woodpeckers. Deer can safely eat the leaves and stems, and the clustered white flowers produce nectar for native pollinators. If your landscaping prioritizes wildlife habitat, this is a great species to consider.

Pre-order Red Elderberry from KCD’s Native Plant starting November 15.

Emma Atkinson, 2022-2023 AmeriCorps Coordinator, Education

Sources:
Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest by Russell Link. University of Washington Press, 1999.
Colorado State University Guide to Poisonous Plants

Featured Photo Credit:

Own work assumed (based on copyright claims), CC BY 2.5

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