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Quail-Friendly Plants of the Midwest

Elderberry, common

  • Sambucus canadensis

Woody

Summer coverEscape coverFood
Dense foliage of elderberry thickets

The dense foliage of elderberry thickets makes excellent summer thermal and escape cover.

©James H. Miller, USDA-NRCS Plants Database
 

Large clusters of white flowers atop this shrub

Large clusters of white flowers atop this shrub make elderberry conspicuous and readily identifiable.

©Ted Bodner, USDA-NRCS Plants Database

Elderberry twigs are covered with many lenticels

Elderberry twigs are covered with many lenticels. Leaves are opposite in their attachment.

Scott Sudkamp, Missouri Department of Conservation

Mature fruits are purplish black

Mature fruits are purplish black and occur from August through October. More than 45 species of birds are known to consume these berries. Care must be taken to avoid confusing elderberry fruits with those of pokeweed, which are poisonous to humans.

Scott Sudkamp, Missouri Department of Conservation

Description

Common elderberry is a shrub that grows to 8 feet tall and forms dense colonies from root sprouts. The tops are multibranched, bearing opposite, pinnately compound leaves 4 to 12 inches long. Lance-shaped leaflets are 2 to 6 inches long, 1 to 2 inches wide and sharply toothed. The light yellow-brown to gray-brown twigs are covered with many lenticels. Large clusters of white flowers bloom from late May to July and are conspicuous even from a distance. Purple to black fruits occur in clusters on flat-topped heads from August to October. Common elderberry occurs throughout the Midwest in open woods, thickets, stream banks, fencerows, roadsides and railroad rights-of-way. Fire and disking should be used sparingly around this shrub.

Bloom period

May to July

Use by bobwhites

Common elderberry has considerable value for wildlife for food and cover. More than 45 species of birds, including quail, eat the seeds. The branching crown provides excellent summer thermal and escape cover.
 

 

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MP903 Quail-Friendly Plants of the Midwest | Page 15 | University of Missouri Extension