Good Food and Cover 


Black (American) Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis 
Red (Scarlet) Elderberry – S. pubens 


Open, many stemmed, broad, rounded shrub with spreading and arching branches, to 5 to 15 feet tall. 

Twigs and Bark

Black-Stout, yellow-gray with white pith. 
Red-Stout, large purple buds, with red-brown pith. 


In general, deciduous, opposite, and compound. 
Black-Deciduous, opposite, compound, 5 to 11 (usually 7) leaflets, greenish fall color. 
Red-Opposite, compound, 5 to 7 leaflets, downy beneath, greenish fall color. 


Black-Small, creamy white, in large (6 to 10 inches wide) FLATTENED CLUSTERS June-July. 
Red-Small, yellowish white, 3 to 5 inches long pyramid clusters, May. 


Black-Purplish-black, in large flattened clusters that often weigh down branches, Aug.-Sept. Excellent for jellies and wine. 
Red-Scarlet or red, ¼ inch diameter, in pyramid clusters, very showy late June-July. 

WV Range

Black-Common throughout WV. 

Red-Mountain counties of Barbour, Fayette, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Mercer, Mineral, Monongalia, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston , Raleigh , Randolph , Summers, Tucker, Upshur and Webster. 

Natural Habitat

Black-Rich moist soil of roadsides, fencerows, edge of forests and open swamps. Grows well on stripmined lands where other plants will not grow. 
Red-Rocky, moist woods. 

Wildlife Use

Fruits are eaten by mammals and birds such as deer, rabbit, squirrel, chipmunks, grouse, turkey, quail, dove, brown thrasher, rose-breasted grosbeak, chap, mockingbird and catbird. Very important summer food for wildlife. 


Uses: Specimen or borders. 
Light: Black (full sunlight); Red (partial shade)
Soil Moisture: Moist to slightly dry. 
Soil pH: Acid to neutral. 
Problems: Usually free of insects and diseases. Requires annual pruning to maintain form, to prevent root suckers and for renewal. 

Compiled by: William N. Grafton, naturalist, botanist and wildlife specialist West Virginia University , Morgantown , West Virginia 

Written by West Virginia Native Plant Society members and jointly published with the WV Wildlife Diversity Program.