Sambucus racemosa var. melanocarpa L. (A. Gray) McMinn
black elderberry
Adoxaceae (Honeysuckle family)
(Previously in Caprifoliaceae)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Jamie Fenneman     (Photo ID #19740)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Sambucus racemosa var. melanocarpa
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend

Species Information

Deciduous, erect, large shrub, 1-6 m tall; twigs thick, soft, pithy, usually somewhat glaucous; bark dark reddish-brown, warty.
Opposite, stalked, large, compound, pinnately divided into 5-7 elliptic to lanceolate leaflets, often asymmetric at the base, abruptly sharp-pointed at the tip, saw-toothed on the margins, and usually somewhat hairy beneath.
Inflorescence of numerous, small flowers in a 4-10 cm long, egg-shaped to conical cluster with short lateral branches on a stronger central axis; corollas white or cream, wheel-shaped; petals fused at base into a short flat tube that spreads (3-6 mm across) at the top to 5 lobes, the lobes longer than the tubes and becoming reflexed.
Berrylike, globose, 5-6 mm across, shiny red or purplish-black, occasionally brown, yellow, or whitish, but not glaucous, with 3 small, smooth to wrinkled or pebbled stones, each enclosing a seed.
Three varieties of this North American subspecies occur in BC. Fruits black or purplish-black; nutlets slightly wrinkled or pebbly var. melanocarpa (A. Gray) McMinn. Fruits bright red (sometimes yellow or white); nutlets mostly smooth or slightly wrinkled or pebbly. Nutlets mostly smooth; plants 2-6 m tall var. arborescens (T.& G.) A. Gray. Nutlets slightly wrinkled or pebbly; plants 0.5-3 m tall

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Sambucus racemosa var. melanocarpa

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres)
1538 685 2030
Slope Gradient (%)
32 0 85

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

342 3 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
4 1 6
Modal Nutrient Regime
# of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class

All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in

ESSF(129), ICH(28), MS(8)

Habitat and Range

Moist to mesic meadows, ditches, streambanks, grasslands, shrublands, disturbed areas and forests in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; var. ar­borescens is common in and W of the Coast-Cascade Mountains, var. melanocarpa is common E of the Coast-­Cascade Mountains and less frequent to the W of them, var. leucocarpa is infrequent in SC and SE BC; var. arborescens – N to AK and YT and S to CA; var. melanocarpa – E to AB and S to NM, AZ, NV and N CA; var. leucocarpa – E to PQ and NB and S to TN and GA.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Sambucus melanocarpa A. Gray
Sambucus racemosa var. melanocarpa subsp. pubens (A. Gray) McMinn