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Sambucus cerulea, common name Blue Elderberry and Blue Elder, is a coarse shrub species of elder in the family Adoxaceae.[1]

The taxonomy of this species is in dispute, and it can be referred to by several different names. The USDA lists it as Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea (see Sambucus nigra), while California’s The Jepson Manual identifies it as Sambucus mexicana[2], and the Sunset Western Garden Book identifies it as both S. mexicana and S. caerulea. [3]


Sambucus cerulea is a large, deciduous shrub, which can grow to be 9m (30ft) in height and 6m (20ft) in width, becoming tree-like if trained into dominant trunks.[3] It is distinguishable from other elderberries by the glaucous powder coating on its bluish-black berries. It normally grows rather wildly from several stems, which can be heavily pruned (or even cut to the ground) during winter dormancy.

The leaves are hairless, strongly pointed and sharp-toothed. They are elliptical to lanceolate, and the blade extends unequally on the stalk at the base. The leaves are commonly 3-15cm (~1-6in) long and 2-6cm (~1-2in) wide.

The white or creamy coloured flowers, occurring May to June, are numerous and form a flat-topped cluster usually about 5-20cm (2-8in) wide. They are umbel-shaped, normally with 4 to 5 rays extending from the base. The flowers have a strong, unpleasant odor. Individual flowers are 4-7mm wide.

The fruits are berry-like drupes. They are juicy, round, and approximately 4-6mm in diameter. They are bluish-black appearing as a pale powdery blue colour. Each fruit contains 3 to 5 small seed-like stones, each enclosing a single seed.


Sambucus cerulea is found in western parts of Montana. It also occurs from southern British Columbia to California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

This species lives on low to moderate elevations in the mountains in valley bottoms, along streams, and on open slopes where it is somewhat moist.[1]

Written on August 28th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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