Sambucus caerulea - Raf.
Common Name Blue Elder
Family Caprifoliaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards The leaves, green fruits and stems of some (if not all) members of this genus are poisonous[9, 76, 226]. The fruit of this species has been known to cause stomach upsets to some people. Any toxin the fruit might contain is liable to be of very low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked[65, 76].
Habitats Gravelly, rather dry soils on stream banks, margins of fields, woodlands etc[62, 82].
Range Western N. America - British Columbia to California, east to Montana, Texas and Mexico.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Translate this page:

You can translate the content of this page by selecting a language in the select box.


Sambucus caerulea Blue Elder
Sambucus caerulea Blue Elder
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of shrub
Sambucus caerulea is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft 10in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from Jun to July, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

S. glauca. S. neomexicana.

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Fruit.
Edible Uses: Tea.

Fruit - raw, cooked or used in preserves[2, 3, 15, 85, 94, 183, 257]. Rather sweet and juicy but full of small seeds[82, 256], this is the best flavoured of the North American elders[212]. The fruit is rather nice raw, seven people ate and enjoyed a small quantity of the raw fruit with no ill effects[K]. The fruit can be dried for later use[257]. A somewhat rank taste fresh[101], the fruit is usually dried before being used[183]. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter and is borne in large clusters[200]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Flowers - raw or cooked in fritters etc[15, 85, 94, 183]. Very pleasant and refreshing raw[K]. A pleasant tea is made from the dried flowers[62, 183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Analgesic;  Antiseptic;  Astringent;  Diaphoretic;  Emetic;  Febrifuge;  Haemostatic;  Laxative;  
Pectoral;  Salve;  Stomachic;  Tonic.

Haemostatic[94]. An infusion or extract made from the flowers, bark and root has been used to cure fevers and gripe, it is also laxative[226]. A decoction of the plant has been used as an antiseptic wash to treat itches[257]. The bark is analgesic and astringent[257]. An infusion has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea and rheumatism[257]. A decoction has been used as a wash in the treatment of swellings and pain[257]. An ointment made by mixing the bark with fat has been used externally in the treatment of burns, ulcers, skin irritations etc[226]. The fresh bark has been placed in a tooth cavity to ease the pain of toothache[257]. The inner bark is strongly emetic[257]. The leaves are analgesic, antiseptic, diaphoretic, febrifuge and purgative[257]. A decoction has been used in the treatment of new colds[257]. An infusion of the leaves and flowers has been used as a steam bath in the treatment of colds and headaches[257]. A decoction of the leaves has been used as an antiseptic wash on limbs affected by blood poisoning[257]. The crushed leaves have been used as a poultice to treat burns and swollen hands[257]. A decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of bladder problems and dyspepsia[257]. A decoction of the flowers has been used in the treatment of stomach troubles and lung complaints[257]. Applied externally, it has been used to treat sprains and bruises and as an antiseptic wash for open sores and itches[257]. A wine made from the fruit has been used as a tonic[257].


Other Uses
Musical;  Repellent;  Tinder;  Wood.

A decoction of the leaves, when watered on plants, repels caterpillars[94]. The dried flower stems repel insects and rodents[101]. The hollow stems can be used as flutes and pipes[257]. The pith of the stems has been used as a tinder for lighting fires[257]. Wood - light, soft, weak, coarse grained. Of no commercial value, though it is used locally for flutes, skewers, pegs, straws etc[82, 94, 99, 229].
Cultivation details
Tolerates most soils, including chalk[200], but prefers a moist loamy soil[11, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates some shade but is best in a sunny position[1]. Tolerates atmospheric pollution and coastal situations[200]. A fast-growing but short-lived tree in the wild[229]. A shrub at Kew in September 1993 was carrying a good crop of tasty fruits[K]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, when it should germinate in early spring. Stored seed can be sown in the spring in a cold frame but will probably germinate better if it is given 2 months warm followed by 2 months cold stratification first[78, 98, 113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If good growth is made, the young plants can be placed in their permanent positions during the early summer. Otherwise, either put them in a sheltered nursery bed, or keep them in their pots in a sheltered position and plant them out in spring of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth 15 - 20cm with a heel, late autumn in a frame or a sheltered outdoor bed[78].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Sambucus australasicaYellow Elderberry20
Sambucus chinensisChinese Elder21
Sambucus ebulusDwarf Elder, Dwarf elderberry12
Sambucus gaudichaudianaWhite Elderberry20
Sambucus javanicaChinese Elder12
Sambucus latipinna 10
Sambucus melanocarpaBlack Elder, Rocky Mountain elder22
Sambucus mexicanaMexican Elder21
Sambucus microbotrysRed Elder10
Sambucus nigraElderberry - European Elder, Black elderberry, American black elderberry, Blue elderberry, Europea43
Sambucus nigra spp canadensisAmerican Elder43
Sambucus pubensAmerican Red Elder31
Sambucus racemosaRed Elder, Red elderberry, Rocky Mountain elder, European Red Elderberry32
Sambucus racemosa kamtschaticaRed Elder32
Sambucus racemosa sieboldiana 10
Sambucus racemosa var. racemosaRed Coast Elder32
Sambucus wightianaElder02
Sambucus williamsii 12


Print Friendly and PDF
Expert comment
Botanical References
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
QR Code

What's this?

This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to our website pages. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by mobile phone (smartphone) cameras. This QR Code is unique to this page. All plant pages have their own unique code. For more information about QR Codes click here.

1. Copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, website, magazines, newspaper etc and even t-shirts.
2. Smartphone users scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to the webpage the QR Code came from.
3. Smartphone users quickly have information on a plant directly for the website on their phone.
Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Sambucus caerulea  

Plant Uses

Edible Uses
Medicinal Uses
Other Plant uses
Woodland Gardening
Why Perennial Plants?
Top Edible Plants
Top Medicinal Plants
Garden Design

Twiter      Facebook


Content Help
Support Us
Old Database Search
About Us
Sign In

Stay informed about PFAFs progress,
challenges and hopes by signing up for
our free email ePost. You will receive
a range of benefits including:
* Important announcements and news
* Exclusive content not on the website
* Updates on new information &
functionality of the website & database

We will not sell or share your email address.
You can unsubscribe at anytime.