Sambucus nigra is a species complex of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae native to most of Europe and North America. Common names include elder, elderberry, black elder, European elder, European elderberry, and European black elderberry. It grows in a variety of conditions including both wet and dry fertile soils, primarily in sunny locations. The plant is a very common feature of hedgerows and scrubland in Britain and northern Europe, but is also widely grown as an ornamental shrub or small tree. Both the flowers and the berries have a long tradition of culinary use, primarily for cordial and wine. The Latin specific epithet nigra means "black", and refers to the deeply dark colour of the berries.
Elderberry is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 6 m (20 ft) tall and wide, rarely reaching 10 m (33 ft) tall. The bark, light grey when young, changes to a coarse grey outer bark with lengthwise furrowing, lenticels prominent. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, 10–30 cm long, pinnate with five to seven (rarely nine) leaflets, the leaflets 5–12 cm long and 3–5 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The young stems are hollow. The English term for the tree is not believed to come from the word "old", but from the Anglo Saxon æld, meaning fire, because the hollow stems of the branches were used as bellows to blow air into a fire.
The hermaphroditic flowers have five stamens, which are borne in large, flat corymbs 10–25 cm diameter in late spring to mid-summer, the individual flowers are ivory white, 5–6 mm diameter, with five petals; they are pollinated by flies.
The fruit is a glossy, dark purple to black berry 3–5 mm diameter, produced in drooping clusters in late autumn; they are an important food for many fruit-eating birds, notably blackcaps.
This plant is useful.
How to get rid of:
1 Cut new canes below the ground as they come up in spring. Cut deeply to sever the rhizomes that spread out to create the canes. Continue to cut suckers as they sprout throughout the year.
2 Scar elderberry stems and spray the plants with herbicide that contains glyphosate, 2,4-D, dicamba, or combination of these effective chemicals. Read labels to confirm that the herbicide you choose is suitable for use on elderberry.
3 Cut thick shrub stalks a few inches above the ground. Dip a sponge-tip paint brush in a herbicide containing Imazapyr and paint the wound, thickly coating the cambium. Alternatively, scar canes or girdle stalks deeply enough to pierce the cambium with a sharp knife, then paint the wounds.
4 Wait several weeks after all of the plants have died to dig out the crowns and rhizomes of the not-so-dear departed. Dig only after giving herbicides time to finish off the shrub crowns and starve underground rhizomes that send up new canes.
5 Cut new sprouts below the surface, scar and spray, or sever and paint until no new shoots sprout. Alternatively, solarize cleared areas by spreading black plastic beyond the area to outdistance any creeping rhizomes and leaving it to kill remaining shoots with heat and lack of sunlight.