Elderberry advice, please.

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by MelissaW, Apr 13, 2004.

  1. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

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    Last year, I received 4 elderberry bushes as a substitute for something else in my tree order. Not knowing anything about them, I planted one in each corner of my 60 x 100 foot garden. This winter, I read that they need to be close together for pollination. I want to move them closer together, but I'm unsure of how to do it. How should they be spaced? I don't know what the variety is, and I have no idea how big they will get. If they are all the same variety, will they still cross pollinate, or do I need to buy another variety? They really grew a lot last year, and I want them to do well. I've heard good things about using elderberry blossems to treat the flu. Should I dry the blossems for tea? Has anyone ever tried it? Thanks for your help, everyone!
     
  2. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The only elderberries I've seen were growing wild in fence rows. These were about 5 feet tall, and 6 feet in diameter. I can't say they need a companion bush, because I've seen single bushes loaded with berries.
    You could move two of them, but get plenty of dirt with the roots and keep them well watered.
    My mother made elderberry jam. I can tell you for certain it tastes as good as any jelly or jam you can make.
     

  3. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    Elderberry is also good for viruses, I am not sure how to prepare it though.
     
  4. culpeper

    culpeper Well-Known Member

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    I have one tree of Sambucus nigra, the black elder. In my small garden, I have to keep hacking it back to prevent it from getting too big. It's much taller than the roof of my house, and if I let it, it would grow to around 10 metres (roughly 30ft) or more. I don't know how wide it would spread if I didn't hack it regularly, but it would be a fair distance - it's in a space which allows only for about 4 metres, and some of that is over my neighbour's fence. It produces lots of suckers which I have to remove frequently, and the roots travel a fair distance too - and nothing much else will grow where those roots are, not even mint!

    Mine flowers nearly all year round, and I get plenty of fruit, so it must be self-pollinating. Even though I'm in the subtropics, I find it does tend to drop its leaves in winter, though is not fully deciduous.

    Elder is one of the most useful herbs to have around. Aside from the culinary uses of both the flowers and the berries (use fully ripe berries only - green ones are toxic, and ripe berries are slightly toxic if eaten uncooked), it has multiple uses:

    Flowers and ripe berries are used in a large range of dishes, both savoury and sweet. Add berries to salads, fruit drinks, muffins and jellies, pies and chutneys, desserts, or use to make wine. Add flower buds to flavour pickles, to apple pie, and use as a substitute for currants, or batter them as fritters. A wine is also made from the flowers. (I love elderberry jam, which tastes to me much like blackerry jam, and I love a syrup made from the flowers, not only as a cough medicine, but over ice cream!)

    Grape-flavoured flowers are used to treat colds, hay fever, arthritis and sore throats, also used in potpourri, sleep pillows and infused as a skin softener. Flowers and berries are used to treat skin conditions, colds, flu and chest complaints. Berries are used to treat diarrhoea and haemorrhoids. Elderberry wine is used to treat night blindness. Elderflower tea is used for sleep problems, and is good for wrinkles, depression, fever, sunburn, burns, wounds, mouth ulcers, fluid retention, kidney stones, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, respiratory problems, hayfever, mild skin infections and freckles, or as an eye lotion. Berries are laxative, and the flowers will help stop diarrhoea.

    An infusion of the leaves is insecticidal and repels mice, aphids and caterpillars, and can be applied as an infusion as a personal insect repellent. Wood can be used to make skewers, ornaments and small toys. Older branches yield a black dye, the leaves green, the berries blue or purple with alum mordant.

    The American Elder (Sambucus canadensis) is smaller, growing to about 4 metres when cultivated and about 6 metres in the wild, is otherwise similar to S. nigra, and is used in the same ways.
     
  5. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Elderberries make wonderful jelly and wine, extremely high in the B complex vitamins. You, theoretically, need 2 different varieties for pollination, Adams is one and I forget the other. I have 1 of each about 20' apart and the second year they were 5' to 7' tall and loaded with berries. This year they are above the roofline. They spread by underground runners/sprouts. You can dig the runners away from the main plant and replant where you want.
     
  6. Manny

    Manny Well-Known Member

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    I've got a single elderberry and it grows like a weed, sprouts from the roots and is getting quite invasive. Beautiful in the spring and loaded with fruit but darned if I know what to do with it. Not too good for eating out of hand due to all the seeds and the fruit seems to be a bit on the sour side. Pretty to look at though.
    Bill
     
  7. Gayle in KY

    Gayle in KY Gadabout

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    Bill, if you let the berries get good and ripe (they'll be very dark and soft), they will not be sour and the seeds seem to either disappear, or soften. I use them to make syrup and jam.

    Whistles and peashooters used to be made from the branches, but that is not recommended, since they are toxic.
     
  8. john#4

    john#4 Well-Known Member

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    :) Hi,

    Here are two very interesting links on Elderberry
    #1 Go to google and type in :haha: "wolf dog circle" it is a site the will give you history, medical, and other usage. Scrow down the page until you find elderberry. Very interesting reading. about 3-4 pages.

    #2 Go to google, type in "Elderberry cooking recipes" tons of them.
    Will I hope this helps you,
    john#4
     
  9. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

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    Thanks everyone! John, I will check out those google searches. It sounds like they get quite big. We are trying to grow a hedgerow on one side of our property (the other side already has an old one), so my husband said he will move them into the hedgerow, fairly close together. I noticed that one of them already has little runners around it. I'd love to try elderberry jelly (although I'm pretty hopeless when it comes to canning), and I'll definately dry some of the blossems. In fact, if they are good for wrinkles, I may just fill the bathtub with them, and lay face down in the water for as long as I can hold my breath! :haha:
     
  10. SueD

    SueD Well-Known Member

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    Elder trees and elderberries are different birds of almost similar feathers... You can, however, train elderberry bushes into a tree like structure.

    They don't need to cross pollinate - my mother had one and it had tons of fruit on it - and made every bird in the county my own personal enemy for a while! Usually you have to net them to get any noticable harvest if the birds know where they are... Still, once you've tried them, you might want to just tuck one or two extras in near each of your other four, lol.

    Elderberries - the black, plump, shiny ones, not the yeast-covered (looks like a white powder), hard, blue ones!!! If yours get the hard, tiny blue berries, they can still be used medicinally, but are mainly bird food imho... Rather bitter and too hard to work with even when cooked. But the black ones??? PURE HEAVEN!!!

    These are EXCELLENT in pies jams and jellies - and I like them straight off the bush, too. They are easy to work with, and have a wonderful flavor. Since we only had one bush growing up - and lots of competition for it - we often used what was left in mixed fruit jellies. Also make good wine, but you'd better have hundreds of bushes, or mix with grapes. The juice isn't so good unless sweetened... honey makes it thick, and sugar is expensive...

    They taste rather similar to mulberries, but don't leave the same mess.... maybe a slight bit more tart, though!

    The flowerheads can be dipped in a plain batter and make scrumptious pancakes. They can also be dried, powdered and used in place of flour - however, you won't get much - even from a dozen bushes.. Not to mention the fact that if you take the flowers, they won't fruit.

    The bark (inner bark) is good for coughs, and a nice poultice can be made from it also, for swellings and such.

    The roots can be used as tea, as well as the bark and leaves.

    Hope this helps!

    Sue
     
  11. Elder tree and Elderberry ARE the same thing!

    Martin
     
  12. SueD

    SueD Well-Known Member

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    Elder tree and Elderberry ARE the same thing!

    MY BAD!!!! Martin is most certainly right... SORRY!!!

    Sue
     
  13. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Sue, I forgive you! :D

    Martin
     
  14. Thank you all for the wonderful info about Elderflowers. I am at the stage in life where I must sell my parents home, where I grew up and I am moving the Elder bushes! I tried this once before and they transplant didn't work. This time I tried for more root and a rainy day and have said lots of prayers. Does anyone know how long it will take for them to settle in and should I wait to prune them or would cutting them back give more energy to the roots?
     
  15. Nan

    Nan Well-Known Member

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    Not sure about the pruning...but I know that they take lots and lots of water. In fact...that is how you know if the ground is moist or has water near the surface is if you see elderberries growing. I have a hugeomongous one or should I say several dozens.....growing on my fence. (over our lateral lines...i.e."lots of water!" heeheehee!) It is a dense mass of folliage about 20 feet by 10 feet. The flowers smell heavenly this time of year. I am glad to know that about the flowers...since we are moving I would like to save some of the blooms to have for if we have colds etc.....Thanks for the great info all! Oh...by the way...mine are tall...but probably more like 6 to 8 feet rather than the plant that Culpepper described....so mine are likely the other variety. They produce shiney berries and make wonderful jam!!! My personal favorite is to mix them with choke cherries(wild cherries from a tree), wild grapes, and mulberries....cook them down to get the juice and it makes ggggrrrrrreat jelly! Gorgeous color too!
     
  16. heelpin

    heelpin Well-Known Member

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    Melissa, in my opinion Elderberry is one of the most beneficial plants around. I was told all my life to avoid it because it was poison and only in the last few years have I learned how to use it. Thats the first time I've heard that they need cross pollination, I never thought about it because they grow like weeds here. The only problem I have is getting to them before the birds. I bush-hog mine down every fall and they always come back and make berries, I do leave a few of the old growth just in case. I've noticed that the best berries are in low places so you might want to water them if it gets dry, I've also noticed there is a big difference in the quality of the berries from bush to bush, some will get ripe gradually and they are a pain to pick but some of them will ripen the whole tag at the same time, these are the ones I pick, when the whole tag turns down and the color is black and they are still firm, this is the time to get them, they will roll off the stem easily, be sure and remove all stems, the stems are the part that will make you sick, I also strain out the seed and just can the juice, this is the best remedy I've found for cold and flu. I do not wash the berries, place in a heavy boiler (enamel is best IMO), I mix three parts berries and two parts distilled water and simmer on low heat (mash with a wooden spoon) for about 10 minutes, strain and squeeze all the juice you can get and pour into hot jars. I then boiled them for twenty minutes, but I think the high heat affected the properties of the juice and it didn't seem to be as effective as the fresh juice, this year I'm not going to run them through the cold bath and see how it works, just be sure everything is sterile and the jars are hot when you seal. I know the books say not to do it like this but the first year I did them this way without any problems. If looks like we re going to have a bumper crop this year, judging from the blooms.

    Tom
     
  17. Grandmotherbear

    Grandmotherbear Well-Known Member Supporter

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    How can you distinguish the beneficial elder berry bush from the extrememly poisonous water hemlock? I would love to forage the elder, but am terrified of the water hemlock...
     
  18. heelpin

    heelpin Well-Known Member

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    Grandmotherbear, I'm not familar with water hemlock and as far as I know I've never seen it. I did a little looking and it grows from Canada South in most of the US but ENature said it had not been reported in Florida and Mississippi. I think the best way to tell them apart would be to break the main stem and look for the purple streaks in water hem lock.
    Remember, "If in doubt do without".

    Here are some links.

    Elderberry can be confused with a violently toxic plant called water hemlock (Cicuta mexicana). These two plants are very similar, but cautious attention to detail can be used to separate their identities. Stems of water hemlock have purple stripes and when cut in half, reveal hollow piths. The elderberry stem has a uniform, white to light gray pith in cross section and the foliage has a rank, acrid odor when crushed. Elderberry leaves are oppositely arranged but water hemlock leaves are alternate.Both elderberry and water hemlock are pinnately compound. Both grow in moist or wet habitats. You must use caution when identifying these plants. Avoid touching water hemlock!

    http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/cropprot/weedguid/waterhmlk.htm

    http://www.wtv-zone.com/WolfDogCircle/Herbs/elder1.html

    http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/Elderberry/elderber.htm


    Water Hemlock

    Warning All parts of this plant are deadly poisonous if eaten, containing the toxic alkaloid coniine (the first alkaloid synthesized in the laboratory). Children can be poisoned by blowing through whistles made from the stalks. Judging from the symptoms, it was an extract of this hemlock that was used to execute Socrates and others in ancient Greece. Death results from the eventual paralysis of the respiratory nerves, leading to suffocation. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

    Flower June-August.

    Habitat Waste places, weedy areas, and woodland borders.

    Range British Columbia to Nova Scotia and south throughout most of the United States; not reported in Florida and Mississippi.

    http://www.enature.com/fieldguide/s...ID=11&shapeID=1134&curPageNum=5&recnum=WF0580