Q:

How can you identify wild elderberry bushes?

A:

Quick Answer

According to the National Gardening Association, elderberry plants can be identified by the deep purple berries that ripen in August of each year. The elderberry has a shrub-like appearance and is about 6 to 12 feet tall, depending on the species, and has fragrant flowers in the spring.

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Full Answer

The common elderberry, or Sambucus canadensis, has flowers from early spring to early summer. Elderberry flowers grow in clusters that may reach over 6 inches wide and appear lacy from a distance. The leaves of the elderberry may range in color from green to deep purple, depending on the species. For instance, the common elderberry has green leaves that are finely toothed, while the species called Black Beauty has pink flowers and deep purple leaves. Wild Utah Edibles states that elderberries have compound leaves with leaflets. Compound leaves are those with more than one leaf growing per stem.

The location where the shrub grows provides information about whether the shrub is an elderberry or another type of plant. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs states that elderberries prefer damp, shady locations. Wild elderberry shrubs grow well along stream and river banks and in forests or thickets with rich, moist soil.

The berries of the elderberry shrub grow in large, umbrella-shaped clusters that may be heavy enough to weigh down branches. Additionally, elderberry shrubs don't have thorns, which allows them to be differentiated from some species of trees that are similar in appearance. Avoid trees with thorns, since the berries can be toxic to humans.

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