- Written by Kevin R. Lee Kevin R. Lee
- Published: 24 January 2020 24 January 2020
Elders, the genus Sambucus, are an interesting group of plants. When young they seem more like reeds; the pith, the tissue in the center of the branch that forms during the first year of growth, is large and styrofoam like, and the wood has a distinctive sour smell.
No matter what the hardiness rating, a strange combination winter will come and leave the healthiest elder with major die-back. It might take fifteen years but it will come. Whether die-back is a major issue or just to try something different, some people cut their elder to ground each spring and enjoy it as an annual, one that can grow several feet.
Although beautiful, the black lace elder, S. nigra 'Eva', is not hardy here. Plant it as a specimen and see what you get in the spring.
The native species, S. racemosa, grows to about 3 metres with fine ferny foliage and red berry clusters. This plant has been used for parent stock to produce some interesting cultivars. Golden plume and Sutherland are two varieties of golden elder. Goldenlocks, S. racemosa, is a dwarf, which means about a metre in size.
S. canadensis, the American elder, has green foliage, white flowers , and black berries.