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Toxic parts

The leaves, green fruits and stems of some (if not all) members of this genus are poisonous[1][2][3]. 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[4][2].

Edible uses


Fruit - raw, cooked or used in preserves[5][6][7][8][9][10][11]. Rather sweet and juicy but full of small seeds[12][13], this is the best flavoured of the North American elders[14]. The fruit is rather nice raw, seven people ate and enjoyed a small quantity of the raw fruit with no ill effects[K]. The fruit can be dried for later use[11]. A somewhat rank taste fresh[15], the fruit is usually dried before being used[10]. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter and is borne in large clusters[16]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Flowers - raw or cooked in fritters etc[7][8][9][10]. Very pleasant and refreshing raw[K].

A pleasant tea is made from the dried flowers[17][10].



Unknown part


Material uses

A decoction of the leaves, when watered on plants, repels caterpillars[9]. The dried flower stems repel insects and rodents[15].

The hollow stems can be used as flutes and pipes[11]. The pith of the stems has been used as a tinder for lighting fires[11].

Wood - light, soft, weak, coarse grained. Of no commercial value, though it is used locally for flutes, skewers, pegs, straws etc[12][9][18][19].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)


An infusion or extract made from the flowers, bark and root has been used to cure fevers and gripe, it is also laxative[3]. A decoction of the plant has been used as an antiseptic wash to treat itches[11]. The bark is analgesic and astringent[11]. An infusion has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea and rheumatism[11]. A decoction has been used as a wash in the treatment of swellings and pain[11]. An ointment made by mixing the bark with fat has been used externally in the treatment of burns, ulcers, skin irritations etc[3]. The fresh bark has been placed in a tooth cavity to ease the pain of toothache[11]. The inner bark is strongly emetic[11]. The leaves are analgesic, antiseptic, diaphoretic, febrifuge and purgative[11]. A decoction has been used in the treatment of new colds[11]. An infusion of the leaves and flowers has been used as a steam bath in the treatment of colds and headaches[11]. A decoction of the leaves has been used as an antiseptic wash on limbs affected by blood poisoning[11]. The crushed leaves have been used as a poultice to treat burns and swollen hands[11]. A decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of bladder problems and dyspepsia[11]. A decoction of the flowers has been used in the treatment of stomach troubles and lung complaints[11]. Applied externally, it has been used to treat sprains and bruises and as an antiseptic wash for open sores and itches[11].

A wine made from the fruit has been used as a tonic[11].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


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[20][21][22]. 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[20].

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[20].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Sambucus caerulea. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Tolerates most soils, including chalk[16], but prefers a moist loamy soil[23][16]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates some shade but is best in a sunny position[24]. Tolerates atmospheric pollution and coastal situations[16].

A fast-growing but short-lived tree in the wild[19]. 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[16].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Sambucus caerulea. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Sambucus caerulea.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Sambucus caerulea
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Strong wind
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
3 x meters
Flower Colour
Flower Type


  1. ? Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (1981-00-00)
  2. ? 2.02.1 Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO ISBN 0112425291 (1984-00-00)
  3. ? Lauriault. J. Identification Guide to the Trees of Canada Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Ontario. ISBN 0889025649 (1989-00-00)
  4. ? Frohne. D. and Pf?nder. J. A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. Wolfe ISBN 0723408394 (1984-00-00)
  5. ? 5.05.1 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
  6. ? 6.06.1 Simmons. A. E. Growing Unusual Fruit. David and Charles ISBN 0-7153-5531-7 (1972-00-00)
  7. ? Bryan. J. and Castle. C. Edible Ornamental Garden. Pitman Publishing ISBN 0-273-00098-5 (1976-00-00)
  8. ? Harrington. H. D. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains. University of New Mexico Press ISBN 0-8623-0343-9 (1967-00-00)
  9. ? Sweet. M. Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West. Naturegraph Co. ISBN 0-911010-54-8 (1962-00-00)
  10. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
  11. ? 11.0011.0111.0211.0311.0411.0511.0611.0711.0811.0911.1011.1111.1211.1311.1411.1511.1611.1711.1811.1911.2011.21 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
  12. ? Sargent. C. S. Manual of the Trees of N. America. Dover Publications Inc. New York. ISBN 0-486-20278-X (1965-00-00)
  13. ? 13.013.1 Turner. N. J. Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples UBC Press. Vancouver. ISBN 0-7748-0533-1 (1995-00-00)
  14. ? 14.014.1 Craighead. J., Craighead. F. and Davis. R. A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers The Riverside Press ISBN 63-7093 (1963-00-00)
  15. ? Turner. N. J. and Szczawinski. A. Edible Wild Fruits and Nuts of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences (1978-00-00)
  16. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  17. ? 17.017.1 Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants. Van Nostrand Reinhold ISBN 0442222009 (1982-00-00)
  18. ? 18.018.1 Turner. N. J. Plants in British Columbian Indian Technology. British Columbia Provincial Museum ISBN 0-7718-8117-7 (1979-00-00)
  19. ? Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. ISBN 0442238622 (1980-00-00)
  20. ? Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (1948-00-00)
  21. ? Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. ()
  22. ? Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
  23. ? 23.023.1 Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
  24. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)