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Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

 

Red Elderberry

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassAsteridaeA large class that encompasses asters
OrderDipsacalesIncludes viburnum, honeysuckle, snowberry, beautybush, twinflower, many others
FamilyAdoxaceaeElders and viburnums
GenusSambucusFrom Greek sambuke, for a musical instrument made from elderwood
SpeciesracemosaWith flowers in racemes
var.racemosaWith flowers in racemes

About plant names...

Red elderberry is a North American native.

Identification: Forms a rounded shrub up to 20' (6.1 m) in diameter, consisting of many stems emerging from a central point. Upright branches, composed of soft pithy wood, eventually bend into arches. Leaves are opposite, in pinnate groups, each 1¾-6" (5-15 cm) long and about ¾-2" (2-6 cm) wide, with sharply serrated edges. The leaves, flowers and branches have a disagreeable odor when crushed, smelling like “a cross between skunk cabbage and Ailanthus,” according to Will Cook. Flowers form tight umbrella-shaped clusters, white with a pink tinge, about 3-5" (7.6-12 cm) around. Red elderberry berries are ... well ... red (or, just to keep you guessing, rarely yellow or white). They are up to ¼" (6.3 mm) in diameter, in dense clusters.

 

Sambucus racemosa (Red Elderberry)

8/16/2014 · White Mountains, NH
≈ 10 × 7" (25 × 16 cm)

Sambucus racemosa (Red Elderberry)

8/16/2014 · White Mountains, NH
≈ 9 × 6" (22 × 15 cm)

Sambucus racemosa (Red Elderberry)

6/29/2014 · Mount Agamenticus, York, ME
≈ 31 × 21" (79 × 53 cm)

Here are some related elderberries:

 
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa
Common Name

Elderberry

Blue Elderberry

Redberry Elder
Plant Forms a rounded shrub up to 15' (4.6 m) in diameter, consisting of many stems emerging from a central point. This woody shrub reaches heights of 20' (6.1 m), with main branches up to 1½" (3.8 cm) in diameter. Rounded shrub up to 20' (6.1 m) in diameter, consisting of many stems emerging from a central point.
Flowers Tight umbrella-shaped clusters, white or cream-colored, about 3-6" (7.6-15 cm) around. White or cream-colored, in flat-topped clusters up to 6" (15 cm) around. Flowers form tight umbrella-shaped clusters, white with a pink tinge, about 3-5" (7.6-12 cm) around.
Leaves Opposite, in pinnate groups, each 1¾-6" (5-15 cm) long and about ¾-2" (2-6 cm) wide, with sharply serrated edges. Opposite, in clusters of 3-9, up to 8" (20 cm) long, and oval to lance-shaped. Opposite, in pinnate groups, each 1¾-6" (5-15 cm) long and about ¾-2" (2-6 cm) wide, with sharply serrated edges.
Stem Upright stems, composed of soft pithy wood, eventually bend into arches. Upright branches, composed of soft pithy wood, eventually bend into arches. Upright branches, composed of soft pithy wood, eventually bend into arches.
Fruit Berries are shiny and black, in dense, heavy clusters, each up to ¼" (6.3 mm) in diameter. Berries are spherical, blue-black in color, with a white powdery surface that makes them look lighter. Berries are bright red, in large, tight clusters.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 4-10

USDA Zones: 3-9
Habitats   Mixed conifer forests, forest-steppe transitions, open talus slopes, at high elevations  
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

While this species is found in the east, a variant, Sambucus racemosa Linnaeus var. microbotrys (Rydberg) Kearney & Peebles, is found in the west.

Edibility: Poisonous Skull & Crossbones All parts of the plant, with the exception of the berries, produce hydrocyanic acid—cyanide!—and are poisonous in significant quantity. Children have been poisoned as a result of making toys such as pea shooters from the stems. Many sources list red elderberry berries as poisonous, but some claim they are edible when boiled and processed into wine jams and wine. (I don’t know about you, but I’m not trying them!) The berries are relished by many birds. Indigenous peoples sometimes mixed the boiled berries with other berries to improve flavor, and formed dried cakes for winter use.

Online References:

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa on Carolina Nature, from Will Cook

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa on the USDA Plants Database

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database

Sambucus racemosa var. microbotrys on Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa on science.halleyhosting.com

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Sambucus racemosa (Red Elderberry)

8/16/2014 · White Mountains, NH
≈ 11 × 7" (28 × 18 cm)

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 12 Oct 2018.

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