Sambucus racemosa - Red elderberry

Other Names: red elderberry (black elder (var. melanocarpa); black elderberry; coastal red elder (var. arborescens); coastal red elderberry; eastern red elder (var. leucocarpa); eastern red elderberry)

Identification
SUBTAXA PRESENT IN BC

"Sambucus racemosa is a deciduous Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft 1in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower from Jun to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution." [PFAF]

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]
"General: Deciduous, erect, large shrub, 1-6 m tall; twigs thick, soft, pithy, usually somewhat glaucous; bark dark reddish-brown, warty. " [IFBC-E-flora]
"Leaves: Opposite, stalked, large, compound, pinnately divided into 5-7 elliptic to lanceolate leaflets, often asymmetric at the base, abruptly sharp-pointed at the tip, saw-toothed on the margins, and usually somewhat hairy beneath. " [IFBC-E-flora]
"Flowers: Inflorescence of numerous, small flowers in a 4-10 cm long, egg-shaped to conical cluster with short lateral branches on a stronger central axis; corollas white or cream, wheel-shaped; petals fused at base into a short flat tube that spreads (3-6 mm across) at the top to 5 lobes, the lobes longer than the tubes and becoming reflexed." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Fruits: Berrylike, globose, 5-6 mm across, shiny red or purplish-black, occasionally brown, yellow, or whitish, but not glaucous, with 3 small, smooth to wrinkled or pebbled stones, each enclosing a seed." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Notes: Three varieties of this North American subspecies occur in BC. Fruits black or purplish-black; nutlets slightly wrinkled or pebbly var. melanocarpa (A. Gray) McMinn. Fruits bright red (sometimes yellow or white); nutlets mostly smooth or slightly wrinkled or pebbly. Nutlets mostly smooth; plants 2-6 m tall var. arborescens (T.& G.) A. Gray. Nutlets slightly wrinkled or pebbly; plants 0.5-3 m tall." [IFBC-E-flora]


Habitat / Range
"Moist to mesic meadows, ditches, streambanks, grasslands, shrublands, disturbed areas and forests in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; var. ar­borescens is common in and W of the Coast-Cascade Mountains, var. melanocarpa is common E of the Coast-­Cascade Mountains and less frequent to the W of them, var. leucocarpa is infrequent in SC and SE BC; var. arborescens – N to AK and YT and S to CA; var. melanocarpa – E to AB and S to NM, AZ, NV and N CA; var. leucocarpa – E to PQ and NB and S to TN and GA." [IFBC-E-flora] Common in mountainous sections of northeastern United States. [EWP]


Ecological Indicator Information
"A shade-tolerant to shade-tolerant/intolerant, sub montane to subalpine, circumpolar deciduous shrub (transcontinental in North America). Occurs on fresh to very moist, nitrogen-rich soils within boreal, temperate, and cool mesothermal climates; its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation. Scattered to plentiful in open-canopy forests on water-receiving sites. Indicative of rapid decomposition of forest floor materials (originally Mor humus forms) remaining on cutover or fire-disturbed, water-shedding sites. Usually associated with Alnus rubra, Athyrium filix-femina, Epilobium angustifolium, Rubus parviflorus, and R. spectabilis. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms." (Information applies to coastal locations only) [IPBC-E-flora]


Hazards
The toxicity of the fruit and seeds was dealt with in a number of ways. The berries are nearly always described as being cooked prior to consumption [7], [13], [14], [17], [27], [37], [44] and [46], which renders the fruit less toxic. People cooked red elderberry fruit through steaming on rocks, pit-baking, and boiling. The cooked mass was sometimes dried on a rack over a fire or in the sun to produce dried berry cakes that were rehydrated for consumption. ....Seeds were generally removed while the fruit was being consumed. There are two reports that recently cooked or rehydrated red elderberry fruit was eaten by holding a group of berries in the hand and squeezing, allowing the syrup-like portion of the fruit to pass between the fingers to be licked-up, the material remaining in the hand discarded [7] and [17]. Sometimes red elderberry was eaten with fish oil, the seeds and skins of the fruit spit out and water drank afterwards, to ‘wash out the seeds’ [46].[RENWC]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

Root

"The inner bark of the Red-berried Elder is accounted the most powerful physic which the Forest Potawatomi have and it is used in the same manner as the Menomini Indians use it. There is no questioning its drastic action, but the method of its use shows considerable superstition connected with it. Four joints of the stem are chosen, of half an inch diameter or greater. The proper length is measured from the point of the ulna to the point of the humerus. If these joints are peeled downward and the bark steeped in warm water, the resulting cup of fluid becomes a very quick-acting purgative. However, should the same sticks have been peeled upward and the resulting “tea” drunk, then it would have been a strong emetic. The white man is apt to discover that this powerful remedy works both ways at once. The National Dispensatory85 says that the bark is a poison and has been know to cause death. Nickell86 says that medicines have been made from the inner bark of the Red-berried Elder that cause watery evacuations and are believed capable of expelling serum. It has been used to increase evacuation from the bowels and also has been used to produce vomiting." [HuronSmith Zuni]

"If these sticks are now peeled downward, the resulting inner bark and rind are steeped and boiled, then thrown away. The liquid is. drunk and saves the life of one threatened with serious constipation. This remedy is only used in extreme cases, for there are many other remedies for constipation and this is a dangerous one unless needed, when it becomes a drastic purgative. If these same sticks were peeled upwards and the tea drunk, then it would have acted as a powerful emetic. There is probably no doubt of its emetic and purgative properties, but the mechanical difference in preparation is surely pure superstition." [HuronSmith Menomini]

"For a woman who felt qualmish and could not vomit, elderberry roots were washed and rubbed on a stone in water until the water became milky. This extract was drunk to induce vomiting (Boas, 1930). The bark was mixed with yellow cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) and black twinberry bark (Lonicera involucrata) to make a footbath for aching legs and feet (Boas, 1966). It was also used to make a steam bath to relax the body of a woman after childbirth. Boiling water was poured over it, and the woman sat in the steam covered with a blanket (Alfred, 1969; Brown, 1969)." [Turner&Bell2]

SCARLET ELDER [HMH Duke]
(Sambucus racemosa L. subsp. pubens (Michx.) House)'''
"Activities (Scarlet Elder) — Diaphoretic (f; HHB); Diuretic (1; HHB); Emetic (f; HHB); Laxative(f; HHB); Poison (1; HHB)."
"Dosages (Scarlet Elder) — Dosage not seen. Probably comparable to other species, except fruitoften considered poisonous."
"Contraindications, Interactions, and Side Effects (Scarlet Elder) — Not covered (AHP; KOM;PH2). Probably has same symptoms as reported from overdoses of S. ebulus. Symptoms with S. ebulus include bloody diarrhea, coma, cyanosis, dizziness, headache, hematochezia, mydriasis, nausea, oral pain, and vomiting (HHB; MAD; PH2)."

Nutritional Value

S. Racemosa fruit; 78g water, 103kcal, 1.1g protein, 5.6g fat, 14.6 g carbs, 0.9g crude fibre, 98mg calcium, and 84mg phosphorus [RENWC]


Cultivation
"Tolerates most soils, including chalk[200], but prefers a moist loamy soil[11, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates some shade but is best in a sunny position[1]. Tolerates atmospheric pollution and coastal situations[200]. Closely related to S. racemosa and considered part of that species by some botanists[43]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]." [PFAF]

Propagation
"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, when it should germinate in early spring. Stored seed can be sown in the spring in a cold frame but will probably germinate better if it is given 2 months warm followed by 2 months cold stratification first[78, 98, 113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If good growth is made, the young plants can be placed in their permanent positions during the early summer. Otherwise, either put them in a sheltered nursery bed, or keep them in their pots in a sheltered position and plant them out in spring of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, 15 - 20cm with a heel, late autumn in a frame or a sheltered outdoor bed[78]." [PFAF]

Synonyms


SAMBUCUS ELDERBERRY

(Adoxaceae - Honeysuckle Family) (Previously in Caprifoliaceae)

Generally shrub to small tree, deciduous; main trunk generally 0. Stem: pith large, spongy. Leaf: 1(2)-odd-pinnately compound; leaflets serrate. Inflorescence: panicle of cymes, terminal, generally ± dome-shaped. Flower: ovary chambers 3–5, ovules pendent; style ± 0, stigma lobes 3–5. Fruit: drupe, berry-like. Seed: 3–5.
20 species: temperate, subtropics some cultivated as ornamental. (Greek: for stringed instrument made from wood of genus) Toxic in quantity (except cooked fruits). [Bolli 1994 Diss Bot 223:1–256] [Jepson]


Local Species;

  1. Sambucus cerulea var cerulea - blue elderberry
  2. Sambucus racemosa - red elderberry

Uses of Sambucus sp.

Species Mentioned; Elderberry - Sambucus [FFWE] S. racemosa, S. callicarpa, S. cerulea, S. caerulea, S. glauca, S. melanocarpa. [????]


Hazards

Toxic

"Elder seeds, stems, roots, and unripe fruits all contain the purgative alkaloid sambucine, as well as hydrocyanic acid. Taken internally, diarrhea and vomiting can result. Herbal Medications warns that there are reports of poisonings ". . . from using the stems as blowguns, and from using too much of the plant for medication. There is a chance of cyanide poisoning if significant amounts were to be ingested." If using hollowed elder stems, make certain to thoroughly remove (and discard) the pith; boiling cleaned stems before use is highly recommended." [????]

"... first aid for cyanide poisoning includes removing any remaining food product from the patient's mouth, inducing vomiting, and giving artificial respiration. (See Treatment of Acute Poisoning at back of book.) Medical aid should be sought promptly."
"Some individuals however, experience nausea even when elder is properly prepared. Proceed slowly until you are familiar with how your particular system reacts.
The leaves, bark, roots, and seeds of elderberries are poisonous, due to the presence of cyanide-producing glycosides. Red elderberries are reputed to cause nausea if eaten raw, probably due to these compounds in the seeds. Blue elderberries are not known to have caused digestive upset, but all elderberries should probably be cooked before being eaten, and the leaves, stems and roots should never be consumed." [????]

S. cerulea; "The leaves, green fruits and stems of some (if not all) members of this genus are poisonous[9, 76, 226]. The fruit of this species has been known to cause stomach upsets to some people. Any toxin the fruit might contain is liable to be of very low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked[65, 76]."[PFAF]

S. racemosa; "Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the leaves and stems of some, if not all, members of this genus are poisonous[9, 76]. The fruit of many species (although no records have been seen for this species) has been known to cause stomach upsets to some people. Any toxin the fruit might contain is liable to be of very low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked[65, 76]." [PFAF]

"I've seen children chewing on the pithy core of the dried elderberry sterns many times. I have often done so also, and thus conclude that the dried sterns are not harmful, at least not in small amounts. However, the green stalks can be harmful if eaten. ...children who have made whistles and blowguns from the dried elder sterns have been poisoned." [????]


Edible Uses

Other Uses
Elder's tree of music nickname comes from its ancient use as material for wind instruments. The botanical Sambucus comes from sambuke, a Greek instrument made from elder's hollow stem. Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants says Indians pressed ". . . poisonous pith out of straight stems with hot sticks to make flutes." Today elder stems are still frequently hollowed for making toy flutes and peashooters, as well as spiles for tapping birch trees. (See Caution, following.) [????]

Medicinal Uses


Other Medicinal Uses
Catholicon against all infirmities. Touted as curative for more than seventy diseases, ranging from plague to toothache; the flower tincture reputed to restore sight to the blind!
Elder flower eyewashes remain popular. The floral tea is drunk for colds, constipation, and rheumatic complaints; it's regarded as a gentle, relaxing brew that calms the nerves. Mixed with mint it's a traditional drink for breaking children's fevers, but herbalist Michael Moore warns that it may be contraindicated for youngsters with a history of convulsions and high fevers. Elder flower tea contains a natural estrogen and is often effective for relieving menstrual cramps. Leaves and flowers are common ingredients in skin salves for piles, burns, and boils. In England, this is frequently used as a livestock ointment. [????]

S. cerulea; "Haemostatic[94]. An infusion or extract made from the flowers, bark and root has been used to cure fevers and gripe, it is also laxative[226]. A decoction of the plant has been used as an antiseptic wash to treat itches[257]." [PFAF]


Propagation
Sambucus does well from cuttings and root division and can be shaped into a handsome hedge. "In Alaska, the shrub tends to be undependable. A hard winter may kill all or part of the hedge, although it will recover rapidly. Some growers advise pruning the tree lightly every winter." [????]


Blue Elderberry - Sambucus caerulea

Identification

"Sambucus caerulea is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft 10in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from Jun to July, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.
" [PFAF]

SUBTAXA PRESENT IN BC

General: Deciduous, erect shrub, occasionally a small tree, 1-5 (sometimes to 10) m tall, the trunk diameter to 25 cm, often several-stemmed from basal suckers; twigs soft, pithy, glaucous; old bark finely fissured.
Leaves: Opposite, stalked, large, compound, pinnately divided into 5-9 leaflets, which are lanceolate to narrowly egg-shaped, 5-15 cm long and 2-6 cm wide, often asymmetric at the base, abruptly sharp-pointed at the tip, saw-toothed on the margins, and usually glabrous.
Flowers: Inflorescence of numerous, small flowers in a flat-topped, 4-20 cm wide, umble-like cluster with 4-5 spokes; corollas wheel-shaped, white or cream; petals fused at base into short, flat tubes that spread (4-7 mm across) to 5 lobes that are longer than the tubes.
Fruits: Berrylike, globose, 4-6 mm across, powder blue (bluish-black with a heavy, waxy bloom), with 3-5 wrinkled stones, each enclosing a seed.

Habitat / Range
Moist to mesic meadows, grasslands, shrublands, disturbed areas and open forests in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common in S BC; S to MT, AZ, NM and CA. [IFBC-E-flora]


Propagation
"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, when it should germinate in early spring. Stored seed can be sown in the spring in a cold frame but will probably germinate better if it is given 2 months warm followed by 2 months cold stratification first[78, 98, 113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If good growth is made, the young plants can be placed in their permanent positions during the early summer. Otherwise, either put them in a sheltered nursery bed, or keep them in their pots in a sheltered position and plant them out in spring of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth 15 - 20cm with a heel, late autumn in a frame or a sheltered outdoor bed[78]." [PFAF]


Cultivation
"Tolerates most soils, including chalk[200], but prefers a moist loamy soil[11, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates some shade but is best in a sunny position[1]. Tolerates atmospheric pollution and coastal situations[200]. A fast-growing but short-lived tree in the wild[229]. A shrub at Kew in September 1993 was carrying a good crop of tasty fruits[K]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]." [PFAF]


Synonyms


References

  1. Charles D. Bell 2013. Sambucus, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/get_IJM.pl?tid=80590, accessed on Jan 14 2015
  2. E-flora
  3. [RENWC] Exploring the use of red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) fruit on the southern Northwest Coast of North America, Robert J Loseya, Nancy Stenholmb, Patty Whereat-Phillipsc, Helen Vallianatosa, Journal of Archaeological Science Volume 30, Issue 6, June 2003, Pages 695–707
  4. PFAF

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