Shrub to 3 m tall Leaves
: opposite, pinnately compound. Leaflets five to eleven (usually seven), to 10 cm long, to 5 cm wide, lance-shaped to egg-shaped with pointed tip, sharply saw-toothed, often hairy beneath. Flowers
: borne in large, flat-topped or dome-shaped terminal clusters (cymes), white, 3 - 5 mm wide, fragrant, numerous. Cyme five-rayed from base, lacking central axis beyond lowermost branches, to 30 cm wide (much broader than long). Corolla five-lobed. Stamens five. Anthers yellow. Fruit
: berry-like (drupe), juicy, in clusters, dark purple (seldom yellow, green, or red), 5 mm long. There are three to five stones inside each drupe. Twigs
: scarcely woody when young. Pith large, white. Form
Similar species: Sambucus racemosa ssp. pubens is similar but has egg-shaped cymes, a brown pith, fruit that is usually bright red, and a flowering time that ends by June. Also, the occasional variety S. canadensis var. acutiloba differs by having deeply dissected leaves.
Flowering: June to late August
Habitat and ecology: Common in degraded woodlands and shaded floodplains. It is also common along roadsides, fencerows, and small streams.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: The pith of this plant is soft enough to be removed from the stem, enabling the stem to be made into a whistle or flute.
Etymology: Sambucus comes from the Greek word sambuke, a musical instrument made of elder wood. Canadensis means "of or from Canada and North America."
Author: The Morton Arboretum