Sambucus racemosa L.
red elderberry (black elder (var. melanocarpa); black elderberry; coastal red elder (var. arborescens); coastal red elderberry; eastern red elder (var. leucocarpa); eastern red elderberry)
Adoxaceae (Honeysuckle family)
(Previously in Caprifoliaceae)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© David Shackleton     (Photo ID #87121)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Sambucus racemosa
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

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)
768 0 2245
Slope Gradient (%)
19 0 125

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

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

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

AT(4), BG(2), BWBS(4), CDF(84), CMA(1), CWH(957), ESSF(584), ICH(468), IDF(50), IMA(1), MH(26), MS(75), PP(2), SBPS(2), SBS(364)

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 racemosa var. laciniata W. D. J. Koch ex DC.