Shrubs of Wisconsin

Sambucus racemosa L.
red elderberry
Family: Caprifoliaceae
plant leaves inflorescence fruit pith bud

Sambucus racemosa is a shrub up to 8 meters high, but often in the 2 to 4 meter range in our area. The leaves are pinnately compound and opposite and the large purple (or green with at least a trace of purple) winter buds are highly distinctive. The conspicuous brown pith of older branches is a good character to separate it from Sambucus canadensis which has white pith. Flowers are small and white and aggregated into roughly pyramidal inflorescences. Fruits are small, red berries. The berries are NOT considered edible and this is NOT the elderberry from which the berries are sometimes harvested for jelly--that is Sambucus canadensis (Black elderberry).

Common habitats include forest openings or understories where the forest has grown up around them, and disturbed sites such as farm yards, rights-of-way, etc. It is found throughout Wisconsin.

known Wisconsin distribution


Contact the author