From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Elders (Elderberries) Are Blooming

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... More About Trees And Plants



Elderberry in flowerElderberry is blooming along the roads.


Along Christian County's ditches and ponds and little streams, elders are blooming. Perhaps you call them elderberries. Either way, the name refers to the same shrubs.

When we first moved here, I thought that the white-blooming clump of elder near our mailbox might be some kind of wild hydrangea. (I had read an article about wild hydrangeas in Southern Living magazine.)

However, in a few months, the white blooms morphed into drooping heads of small blackish-purple berries dangling from red stems. I realized that they were definitely elderberries.

I still don't know if any wild hydrangeas grow here, but we have lots of elder bushes. Our elder is Sambuccus canadensis, American (common) elder, which is native to much of the U.S.

I like the schedule elderberry bushes keep. They bloom in June and July after the early rush of blooming shrubs has finished. A couple of months later, the birds enjoy the fruit. In fact, when the elderberries are ripe, the birds practically swarm the berry heads.

If I had a wild, wet area, I'd think about planting elders there. Elders are short-lived shrubs, but the root system will send up new shoots as the old ones die out. In a manicured yard, the dead branches would need pruning every year, and that might be a pain. It would be better to plant them where nature can just take its course.

The flowers, leaves and berries of the elderberry were used by American Indians, and are still favored for various folk remedies. At health food stores, you'll find elderberry supplements that are said to fend off influenza.

If you ever decide to pick elderberries, be sure you have the plant identified correctly. Elders do not have thorns. Also, the berries of the common elder are always blackish when ripe and the berries hang down from the heads. There is another type of elderberry that produces red berries, and they are poisonous.

People usually hold a pan under the head and strip the little berries off, rather than plucking them individually.

My Mennonite neighbor, Kathryn, has picked elderberries to make jam some years. Elderberry wine is supposed to be good for what ails you, and I've heard of elderberry tea and elderberry pie. I have never made any of those things.

I just enjoy looking at elderberries blooming and bearing fruit. It's not nearly as much work.

Technorati Technorati tags: , , , ,

2 comments:

Larry said...

Elderberries are blooming here too, Genevieve. I've never made fritters from the blossoms, never made jam or wine from the blossoms... I just like to see them!

Genevieve said...

When I walked this evening, I thought about wading through the grass to get up a close-up of the blossom. Then I thought about ticks and chiggers...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.