Lavender growing | Harvesting, pruning, propagation

The edible and the poisonous elderberry

Few people know, that elder has two varieties, the black elder and the pedestrian elder, also known as ground elder (danewort)

The latter is slightly poisonous, the consumption of its berries may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and vision dysfunctions.

Distinguishing between poisonous and edible elder

Edible elder, that is black elder is a bush, which grows as much as 10-30 feet (3-10 m) tall. Its branches are downward bending, when crushed its inside is spongy. The blossoms are distributed on the entire bush, the crops are downward dangling. The blossom and the crop of the plant are edible, the other parts of this one are poisonous.

As opposed to this, the poisonous pedestrian elder (danewort) doesn’t have a woody stem, but it is a soft stemmed much smaller plant. Its branches stand upwards, the blossoms are located at the end of the branches on the top of the plant and the pollen sacks are red. The plant’s crops also stand upwards. In the blossoms of the edible elder there is no red colour, only white and yellow.


 elderberry bush

This bush, is the black elder. It is a large bush, with lots and lots of blossoms, or in the autumn umbrella like crops.

elderberry flower

Downwards dangling, black coloured berry like crops with umbrellas.



On the blossoms of the poisonous elder, that is pedestrian elder the colour red is dominant, while in the blossoms of edible elder there is no red.

danewort 5

The crops of poisonous elder, that is pedestrian elder (danewort) stand upwards, those of the edible (black elder) dangle downwards.


The consumption of black elder

In the past it was referred to as the poor man’s pharmacy, it was used against constipation, eye inflammation, for blood cleansing, as a diuretic, but also as an expectorant and epithermal lotion.  

Elder wine, elder syrup are made from its berries, but dipped into pancake dough fried elder blossoms can be prepared, as well. A preserve can be cooked from elder berries mixed with mulberries and apples.

In the past it was a very important colouring plant, which is worth trying even nowadays: with various additives brown, blue, violet, crimson and light blue paints used to be made from it, and green from the leaves.