Elder, shrub of genus Sambucus, family Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle). Elders grow up to 3 m high and spread to form thickets. About 20 species are known worldwide; 3 are native to Canada.

The leaves are large, opposite and pinnate with 5-11 leaflets. They are usually hairy underneath. Several stems arise from one root. The pithy-cored stems are sometimes hollowed out and used for peashooters and whistles; however, the roots, stems and leaves are poisonous.

Biological Importance

Their emetic and purgative properties were used in European and N American folk medicine. The small, cream-coloured flowers are borne in dense clusters. They are edible and are used to flavour beverages. The juicy, berrylike fruits are blue, black or red, depending on species. The fruits of blue- and black-fruited species are seedy, and not very palatable when raw, but make excellent wine, jelly and pie, alone or combined with other fruits. See also Aboriginal Uses of Plants.