elderberry black beauty (sambucus nigra)

Otti(z5 NYC)May 4, 2003


I have always been partial to elderberries, have great childhood memories of fritters, jam, juice and superb compote, but I have hesitated getting a shrub myself, because we have only a tiny and very shady backyard. Well, my neighbor just got "black beauty" which he put next to the fence we share. I was delighted. I will get to enjoy it, but won'thave to give up the space!

Are the berries from this cultivar really edible and how do they taste? Will it produce in partial shade and without a companion nearby?

I understand this is a new variety, but maybe someone knows.

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Black elder (forget the variety names, they are nearly irrelevant IMO) can grow into a very large tree, about 10 metres tall or more. Mine is in a very tiny garden, and I hack it back regularly to keep it to a manageable size. The green berries are toxic. The ripe berries are slightly less toxic if eaten raw, but cooked they are perfectly safe, and taste remarkably like blackberries. The fresh flowers are edible, too, but don't use older flowers - they stink of cat's urine!

Nothing much grows near mine, even mint. The elder seems to kill off everything around it - perhaps simply because it has a very aggressive and large root system. My tree was planted in partial shade, but it does get some afternoon sun, and of course, the taller it gets, the more sun it's been getting! It likes a fair bit of moisture. It may produce suckers on your side of the fence (and elsewhere!), so remove them as they appear unless you want elder trees all over the place.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2003 at 5:53PM
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Otti(z5 NYC)

Oh gosh, that's not good news! I never heard of that.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2003 at 11:36PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

'Black Beauty' needs another S. nigra clone to set fruit as it needs cross pollination. I have both 'Black Beauty' and 'Guincho Purple'. Elderberry flowers and fruits on new wood, so its easy to cut back and keep more managable.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2003 at 3:21PM
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Does anyone know a source for elderberry Black Beauty in Pennsylvania? Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2004 at 12:35PM
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jmhewitt(8a Coastal NC)

I got some very nice little plants of "Black Beauty" from DiggingDog.com. potted them up, and they are growing very vigorously. since we have a deer problem, won't put them out until they get some size on them, probably late fall.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2004 at 1:32PM
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lesleynd(z3/4 ND)

Do you think this elderberry would be OK to grow in my zone.? As it grows on new wood, it should be OK if it dies back to the ground shouldn't it? Also, there is snow cover all winter. Thanks

    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 12:09PM
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Hanne(8 BC Canada)

How far from each other can you plant Black Beauty elderberries and still have polination? Is it done by bees or buterflies or do they have to be close for the wind to do the job? I juts bought one and the label talks about berries but didn't mention that you need two plants to have them, of course... so I'll have to buy another one and I don't know how far I can plant it from the other one.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 5:57PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Do not buy another 'Black Beauty'. You need another S. nigra cultivar but not another 'Black Beauty' to set berries.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 10:23PM
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kashka_kat(z4 WI)

Shopko (in Wisconsin) has tons of these on sale for $6 - I got a few & I'm looking for more info or pics - are they more upright, or rounded?

Never quite sure what "semi" or part shade means -- if dappled shade would it still keep its dark color? Actually it would get some direct sun very early in the morning about 6 or 7, and looks very cool back-lit by the sun.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 12:44PM
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i'm looking for a elder berry (sambucus nigra) walking stick about 42" inches long by 2" inches thick i will pay to you for it $40.00 usd.,

send item to Jose A. Raymundi
27- I Michael Road , New London, CT 06320 my phone is 860-437-3142

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 4:32PM
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I picked up a Black Lace sambucus nigra at Home Depot late last week, and after reading this thread went back and purchased a Black Beauty today. There were still a few of each left, for a bit under $12 each. The Home Depot was the one nearest Camp Hill, PA, just off of I 81 on the Harrisburg Expressway going toward Carlisle--it's on the left soon after Lowe's and KMart, and at the back of the same shopping center that Circuit City is in.

I had hesitated to get two of the English variety because of the greater size and toxicity if the berries are uncooked, but they do seem to be pruning them to make shrubs--all of the plants had at least four leaders, and looked more like shrubs than trees.

Has anyone managed to keep either of these to shrub size? What time of year do you prune it, and into what shape? How long do the branches need to get in order to produce blossoms?

Do the local wildlife in the USA seem to know how to deal with the berries? I have a few sambucus canadensis, our native elderberry form, in my garden, and the birds of course make off with most of the berries from those. (I pick the blossoms for tea, so don't really mind!) If they won't eat the sambucus nigra berries, I will need to plan how to use them.... :)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 4:12AM
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friesfan1(5b NW-KS)


I wish someone had commented on this. I purchased a Black Lace
sambucus earlier this summer. The website I bought it from
said that the berries were edible, and did not mention
them needing cooked because of toxicity.

I actually bought 2, Elderberries, the other, is Sutherland Gold Sambucus. So, now my question is, do I buy two more
of the same, for pollination??

The website did not mention any of this.
Moonshine Designs Nursery

I hope that someone can answer these questions for me.

Also, I don't seem to be having any luck getting them
to grow. They are about the same height as when I put them
in the ground. Although they do have new leaves quite often.

z 5b KS

    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 8:02PM
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One elder tree will produce fruit without the help of another. Many birds can eat the berries without coming to harm. They've evolved to be able to cope, and their digestive systems are vastly different from that of humans. Never trust a bird's judgement on what it safe to eat and what is not! They're judging for themselves, not you.

The American Elder (Sambuccus canadensis) and the European Elder (S. nigra) both have berries which are toxic when green. Treat them in the same ways.

Anybody selling you something will not tell you the downside of it, you know!!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 2:54AM
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friesfan1(5b NW-KS)

I contacted the seller of the Elderberry trees I bought.
Here is their response.

"All members of the elder family are self pollinating.
It is not necessary to have "pollinators"."


Roger & Wanda
Moonshine Designs
http://www.djroger.com or
http://www.moonshinedesigns.biz or

z 5b KS

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 1:17PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

I know that I am late to this party, but I was considering buying some elder plants and was interested in black varieties for their ornamental properties. Here is an excerpt from a winemakers site about their edibility:
Elderberries grow wild throughout much of America, Canada, Mexico, the British Isles, Europe and Asia and have long been a favorite for wine. Sambucus simpsonii is the dominant elder from Louisiana through Florida. North and west of that, Sambucus canadensis (American Elder) dominates. Related cousins are the Sambucus cerulea (Blue Elder), Sambucus mexicana (Mexican Elder), Sambucus melanocarpa (Black Berried Elder) � all of which are edible. In Europe and Asia the popular edible elder is Sambucus nigra (Black Elder).

There are several minor elders that are toxic. These are not common, but do exist. A good edible plants guide will help you steer clear of them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Winemaker

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:58PM
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Lots of mixed info in here as to whether a second plant is needed for pollenation. Is there someone out there who knows for sure?
I bought both Black Lace and Black Beauty and am now wondering where to put the 2nd one after seeing how vigorous they are in the pots I put them in. How far apart they can be and still pollenate each other. What pollenates Elders? Thank you in advance.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 5:37PM
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