Elderberries

common elderberry common elderberry common elderberry common elderberry red-berried elder red-berried elder red-berried elder red-berried elder

There are two kinds of elderberries in this region. Common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) and red-berried elder (Sambucus racemosa). The first is the most familiar. It produces edible flowers and juice from its fruit (when prepared correctly). Red-berried elder is a different story. All parts of the plant are poisonous, so do not confuse this shrub with the common elderberry. When foraging, always make sure you’ve identified edible wild plants correctly and carefully follow instructions for preparations of wild foods in a good foraging field guide. 

Fortunately, these two shrubs bloom at different times of the year, which makes flower identification easy. Red-berried elder flowers open in Cherry Blossom Season but common elderberry doesn’t bloom until Rose Season, more than a month later. The berries are different colors and they ripen at different times, again making correct identification simple. While they are both elderberries, the timing as well as appearance set them apart.

Dividing the year into 19 slices has the advantage of bringing a lot of subtleties into view. Each new micro-season introduces a new cast of characters, as well as a change in weather, mood and scenery. Included in the New This Season box in each Season in the book is a list of flowers that are coming into bloom in that location at that time. In many cases the lists note shoots that are coming up, fruits ripening, and leaves turning color in the fall, etc.. The plant list not only helps pinpoint the timing of plants you are looking for. It introduces you, at just the right time, to ones you’re not familiar with. Scan the list for a likely candidate. Check it out in any field guide you have, and note its habitat and identifying features. Then when you’re out and about, you stand a good chance of finding just what you’re looking for.

Field Guide to the Seasons tells you what plants and animals are doing throughout the year. To find out how, go to the Book tab on the home page.