Native Plant of the Week: Canada Elderberry ~ Sambucus canadensis
Other Common Names: American Black Elderberry, American Elderberry
The flat topped inforescence is very showy and fragrant - usually 6 or more inches in diameter made up of many 5 petalled tiny white flowers. Many nectaring insects (bee, fly and beetle species) as well as butterflies are attracted to the flowers.
The other elderberry common in Minnesota is the Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) which flowers much earlier in late May with more conical shaped inflorescences and bright red berries in late summer.
I chose to highlight it as the Native Plant of the Week because the ripening berries are very showy right now. They turn a shiny blue-black when mature and are held by bright pink petioles. The berries are highly sought by many bird species and thus the seed gets dispersed.
Elderberries provide a long season of interest from their early leaf buds swelling in late February to their showy flowers in July to their heavy deep blue black fruit set in September.
The one thing that frustrates gardeners with this plant is its weak woody stems that break easily and often die back substantially each season. It therefore needs a little extra attention in a managed landscape to keep it looking balanced. In a less formal wildlife garden, the pithy stems provide cavities for insect species to overwinter in.
Canada Elderberry is an native to most of North America except for the northwestern States and Provinces, northern Canadian territories and Newfoundland.
© Heather Holm, 2015. Heather Holm