Winter Shrub ID: Red Elderberry

Photo of Red Elderberry flower buds

Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) is distinctive in the white season, with pairs of plump, green or purple flower buds and bark with prominently raised lenticels. Other field marks include heart or shield-shaped leaf scars with usually 5-7 bundle scars and persisting, finely branched fruit stalks with an overall dome shape.

The plant's red fruits, which are said to be edible for humans if prepared properly (I've not tried them, but see the comments section of Foraging Wild Flowers: Black Elderberry), are certainly eaten by various birds and mammals. In any case, the fruits do not persist into the white season. Red Elderberry is a clumping shrub or small tree capable of spreading by rhizome. To learn more about this native woody plant, visit GoBotany. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

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