It has been determined that the Elderberry of this region is more properly designated mexicana, so that is the name we will use. Whatever it is called, this is a great plant! It requires room, growing eight to twenty feet tall and holding its branches nearly as wide. Dramatic in bloom, it is perhaps even more eye-catching when the berries mature. It bears masses of creamy-white flowers in 4-8in wide, flat-topped clusters in summer. The edible fruit is a dark blue berry, dusted with a whitish bloom, ¼ inch round, with sweet, juicy pulp. The fruits are not particularly tasty raw, but are used to make wine, or in cooking.Difficult to transplant from the wild- not good stewardship anyway- nursery stock seems to have no problems. Once established they are easy to grow, relatively drought tolerant, but more luxurious with summer water. They are outstandingly important food sources for birds. Berries, even before they are ripe, are devoured by robins. The pileated woodpecker relies on Elderberry. Many birds eat the berries, but especially band-tailed pigeos, western bluebirds, grosbeaks, jays, warblers, sapsuckers, tanagers and thrushes. Where plants are allowed to mature and develop broken branches, cavity-nesting birds and small mammals take advantage of the resource. Nectar is sipped by hummingbirds and butterflies.
In cold winter areas, there is often much die-back over the winter, sometime even to the ground, but the plant will re-grow, bloom and fruit in a season. Heavy pruning, if nature does not do it, keeps Elderberry from getting leggy. Use this handsome plant in the wild garden, where its spectacular displays of flower and fruit can be enjoyed. Remove the pithy center from twigs to make whistles or flutes. Elderberries prefer deep, moist well-drained soil, and are found along roadsides or in clearings where there are seeps or drainages.
Zones: 7 to 10
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