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Red-berried Elder

Sambucus racemosa

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Adoxaceae (Moschatel)
Deciduous shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
8 metres tall
Hedgerows, meadows, riversides, scrub, wasteland, waterside, wetland, woodland.

White, 5 petals
Dense, egg-shaped clusters of creamy white, or yellowish flowers. The petals are bent backwards. Flowers have 5 white stamens, each with yellow anthers. Pollinated by insects.
Red berries (sometimes purple), known as Elderberries. Each berry is about 5mm in diameter. The berries each contain 3 to 5 seeds.
The leaf consists of 5 to 7 opposite paired leaflets. The leaflets are narrowly oval or lanceolate with rough, uneven serrated margins. Compared to other species of Elder, Red-berried Elder has more pointed leaflets and they are yellower in colour.
The leaves smell unappealing when crushed in the fingers. The flowers are also fragrant and attract butterflies.
Other Names:
American Red Elder, Red Elder, Red Elderberry.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Sambucus racemosa, also known as red elderberry or red elder, is a species of flowering plant in the Adoxaceae family. It is native to North America and can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, meadows, and wetlands. The plant is known for its clusters of small, white flowers that bloom in the spring and early summer, as well as its red berries, which are edible and often used to make jams, jellies, and wines. The leaves and stems of the plant contain a toxic compound and should not be eaten. Red elderberry is used in traditional medicine by some indigenous communities for a variety of purposes, including as a treatment for colds and flu. However, it is important to note that the safety and effectiveness of using red elderberry for medicinal purposes have not been thoroughly studied and it is not recommended for use as a medicine without the guidance of a healthcare professional.


Red-berried Elder (Sambucus racemosa) is a beautiful and versatile shrub that is native to North America. This plant belongs to the Caprifoliaceae family and is commonly known as the Red Elderberry or Red Elder. It is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 8 meters in height and 6 meters in width.

One of the most distinctive features of Red-berried Elder is its red or pinkish-red berries that are produced in large clusters. The berries are not only attractive, but they are also edible and can be used to make jams, jellies, and syrups. The berries are also a favorite food source for many species of birds, making Red-berried Elder a valuable addition to a wildlife garden.

The leaves of Red-berried Elder are pinnate and are composed of 5 to 7 leaflets. They are green in color and have a slightly serrated edge. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow and add to the beauty of the shrub.

Red-berried Elder is also known for its fragrant flowers that are produced in large clusters in the spring. The flowers are white or creamy white in color and have a sweet, pleasant fragrance. They are a popular food source for many species of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

This shrub is hardy and adaptable and can grow in a variety of soils, including clay, loam, and sand. It prefers a sunny or partially shaded location and can tolerate drought conditions.

In addition to its ornamental value, Red-berried Elder has a long history of medicinal uses. The plant is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including colds, flu, and digestive problems. The plant’s leaves, bark, and roots have been used to make teas, decoctions, and poultices.

Red-berried Elder is an excellent choice for a low-maintenance garden. It is easy to grow and care for, and its red berries and fragrant flowers make it a beautiful addition to any garden. Whether you are looking to attract wildlife, add some color to your landscape, or utilize its medicinal properties, Red-berried Elder is a great choice.

Red-berried Elder is a versatile and beautiful shrub that offers a range of benefits to gardeners. Its red berries, fragrant flowers, and adaptability make it a great addition to any garden, and its history of medicinal use adds to its value. If you are looking for a low-maintenance shrub that will add color, fragrance, and beauty to your garden, consider planting Red-berried Elder.

Red-berried Elder is not only beautiful but it also has many practical uses. The plant's wood is strong and flexible, making it an excellent material for crafting baskets, furniture, and even musical instruments. The wood is also valued for its durability and resistance to rot, making it a popular choice for fence posts and stakes.

In some cultures, Red-berried Elder has been used as a natural dye. The berries can be crushed and mixed with water to produce a deep red dye that is perfect for coloring cloth, wool, and other fibers. The dye is fast, vibrant, and long-lasting, making it a valuable addition to any textile artist's collection.

Another practical use of Red-berried Elder is as a natural insect repellent. The plant's leaves and branches contain compounds that are toxic to many species of insects, making it an excellent choice for natural pest control. Simply planting Red-berried Elder near crops or gardens can help keep pests at bay, reducing the need for chemical insecticides.

Aside from its ornamental, medicinal, and practical uses, Red-berried Elder also has a rich cultural and historical significance. The plant is mentioned in many ancient texts and folklore, and is often associated with magic and spiritualism. In some cultures, Red-berried Elder is believed to have protective properties, and is used in rituals to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

Red-berried Elder is a versatile and multi-faceted plant that offers a range of benefits to gardeners, artisans, and nature enthusiasts. Its red berries, fragrant flowers, and practical uses make it a valuable addition to any garden, and its cultural and historical significance adds to its value. If you are looking for a plant that is both beautiful and practical, consider planting Red-berried Elder.

Another aspect that makes Red-berried Elder such an attractive shrub is its ease of propagation. The plant can be propagated from seed, but the easiest method is through softwood cuttings. Simply take cuttings from the new growth in the spring and root them in a mix of sand and peat moss. Alternatively, the plant can be propagated through layering, where a low-growing branch is bent down to the ground and covered with soil until roots have formed.

Another important aspect to consider when growing Red-berried Elder is pruning. Pruning should be done in the late winter or early spring, before the new growth begins. Pruning encourages bushier growth and helps to keep the shrub from becoming too tall and leggy. It also helps to maintain the plant's shape and promotes the production of new flowers and fruit.

It is also important to note that while the berries of Red-berried Elder are edible, the rest of the plant is toxic. The leaves, bark, and roots contain compounds that are harmful if ingested. As with any plant, it is important to be aware of its toxic properties and to handle it with care, especially if you have children or pets.

In conclusion, Red-berried Elder is a beautiful and versatile shrub that offers a range of benefits to gardeners. Whether you are looking to attract wildlife, add some color to your landscape, or utilize its practical and medicinal properties, Red-berried Elder is a great choice. With its ease of propagation, low maintenance requirements, and attractive growth habit, it is an excellent choice for any garden.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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