Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa
Caprifoliaceae – Honeysuckle family
The generic name is Latin for “elderberry.” The specific name refers to the raceme-like (actually a compound cyme) clusters of small, cream-colored flowers.
Like the blue elderberry, the red species is also a tall shrub or small tree. The two species are uniquely adapted to different types of habitats, are rarely found adjacent to each one another. Red elderberry is better adapted to shaded and moist sites, whereas blue elderberry tends to have fewer leaflets (five) that are generally broader and larger than those of the blue elderberry. Of course the most striking difference is in the color of the fruit, bright red versus powder blue. Red and blue elderberry were used in similar ways by Native people for food and medicinal purposes (5-29).
The elderberries (red more so than blue) are considered mildly toxic when eaten in large quantity, but cooking seems to improve palatability. Many Northwest Native groups consumed blue elderberries, occasionally fresh, but frequently steamed using hot rocks. Traditional medicinal uses included applying the pounded leaves to relieve abscess or joint swelling, and using a tea made from bark as an emetic or cure for diarrhea (5-28).
Information courtesy of “The View From Springbrook Park; an Illustrated Natural History” by Ed Chinn.
Photos taken by Laura Tanz
Sponsored by Friends of Springbrook Park; Lake Oswego, OR