Herb: American Red Elder

Latin name: Sambucus pubens

Synonyms: Sambucus racemosa pubens leucocarpa

Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Medicinal use of American Red Elder:

The bark and the leaves are used as a diuretic and purgative. The blossoms have been used in the treatment of measles.

Description of the plant:


4 m
(13 feet)

to July

Habitat of the herb:

Moist to wet soils along streams, in woods and open areas from valleys to around 3,000 metres.

Edible parts of American Red Elder:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A bitter flavour. The fruit is quite nutritious, having a relatively high fat and protein as well as carbohydrate content. The fruit can be dried prior to use, it will then lose some of its rank taste. The fruit is about 5mm in diameter and is borne in large clusters making it easy to harvest. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Flowers - raw or cooked. The root is made into a tea-like beverage.

Other uses of the herb:

The stem is easily hollowed and can be used to make a whistle.

Propagation of American Red Elder:

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. 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. 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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Moist to wet soils along streams, in woods and open areas from valleys to around 3,000 metres.

Known hazards of Sambucus pubens:

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the leaves and stems of some, if not all, members of this genus are poisonous. The fruit of many species (although no records have been seen for 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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.