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Red Elder


Latin Name: Sambucus racemosa


Family: Caprifoliaceae

Native Range: Native to most regions of Canada and northern United States.

Seed Source: Red elder shelterbelt, near Indian Head Saskatchewan.

Height and Spread: 3m x 2m (5 years)

Overview: Red elder is a medium fruit bearing shrub that is valuable for wildlife habitat.

Fruits: A round single seeded bright red cherry, 0.5 cm in diameter. Large clusters of small, bright red, fleshy berries appear in summer bearing 25 seeds per fruit.


Stratification: Pre-soak seed for 24 hours then stratify in moist sand (10 percent moisture) for 120 days at 5°C.

Ideal sowing time: Non-pretreated seed outdoors in late September (will germinate the following spring) or stratified seed in spring.

Sowing instructions: Sow 2.0 cm deep, 50 seeds/meter; Greenhouse - sow 3 seeds per cell.

Growing conditions: ‘Red elder favors deeper, loamy sands and silts and nutrient rich sites with good drainage, ample moisture and a pH of 5.0 to 8.0.It is shade tolerant but prefers a sunny exposure.

Agroforestry Value

Red elder is used in Eco-Buffers and wildlife habitat plantings. Its dense roots and rhizomes make it useful for soil stabilization and erosion control on moist sites including streambanks. Red elder provides fair to good food and cover for birds plus small and large mammals. Humming birds collect nectar from the flowers.