Sambucus racemosa

red elderberry, red elder

Red elderberry grows as a small tree, up to 6 m tall, with large (5-15 cm) leaves divided into 5-7 opposite leaflets. The flowers/berries grow in pyramidal clusters. Berries are bright red. Distinguished from Sambucus caerulea (blue elderberry) by the color of the berres and 5-9 leaflets. The common coastal variety of red elderberry is Sambucus racemosa ssp. pubens var. arborescens.

Cultural Narrative: 

Red elderberries were a very important food for people living in coastal areas. Berries could be boiled to make a sauce or steamed. Some groups flavored salmon by soaking the fish in red elderberry juice overnight before baking. Red elderberries must be cooked as raw berries may cause nausea, and the other parts of this plant are toxic. Today, people make jelly, wine, or fruit leather.

Location Description: 

Red elderberry grows along stream banks, moist clearings, and swampy thickets.