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Elderberries

Because of their tartness and relative seediness, elderberries are eaten fresh only rarely; however, they offer a low-cost, low-maintenance fruit crop from which a delightful jelly or pie can be produced. Their fruit is extremely rich in vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and the plant is well adapted to Pennsylvania conditions.

The American elder, Sambucus canadensis (L.), is a shrub with individual canes that grow in a clump and reach 4 to 15 feet in height. It is indigenous to North America, with a range from Nova Scotia to Minnesota and south to Florida and Texas. The leaves are pinnately compound, with five to eleven leaflets averaging 5 inches in length and having finely serrate margins. The flower cluster, which is called a cyme, ranges from 3 to 10 inches in diameter. The plants are extremely winter hardy, the flowers are pleasantly scented, and the plant may be used as an ornamental.

Like most fruit plants, elderberries require well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. The root system is very fibrous and shallow, so cultivation should be shallow. The plants come into full production after 3 to 4 years, with berries maturing in late August to early September.

Although relatively little breeding has been done, several elderberry varieties are readily available.

Because elderberry is a native plant, several native insects and mites feed on it.

Many cultural methods such as pruning and sanitation practices will help in keeping disease organisms out of your plantings.

No pesticides are currently registered for use.

Because of their tartness and relative seediness, elderberries are eaten fresh only rarely; however, they offer a low-cost, low-maintenance fruit crop from which a delightful jelly or pie can be produced. Their fruit is extremely rich in vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and the plant is well adapted to Pennsylvania conditions.