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Elderberry bush


A small purple berry from a shrub, Sambucus canadensis, also known as the common American elderberry. The smooth green stems from the elderberry bush were used to make an ancient musical instrument known as the sambuca. They are also used for whittling whistles. The ripe berries were used for ink, dyes, food, wine, and home remedies. Alum was added to make the color insoluble.

Synonyms and Related Terms

common American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis); hyld (Dan.); Holunder (Deut.); sureau (Fr.); vlier (Ned.); hyll (Nor.); bez (Pol.); fläder (Sven.); saúco (Esp.); sweet elder; sambuca; bore-wood

Elderberry fruit Sambucus nigra canadensis)

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Shrub heights to 8 m
  • Flowers= small white in dense flat-topped clusters
  • Fruit=clusters of purple-black berries

Resources and Citations

  • R.J. Adrosko, Natural Dyes in the United States, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 1968
  • Virginia Tech Dendrology website at www.fw.vt.edu/dendro/dendrology/main.htm (accessed Oct. 3, 2005)
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998