Sambucus racemosa L.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Sambucus racemosa' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-02-24.

Common Names

  • Red-berried Elder


Organism arising via vegetative or asexual reproduction.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
Odd-pinnate; (of a compound leaf) with a central rachis and an uneven number of leaflets due to the presence of a terminal leaflet. (Cf. paripinnate.)
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Sambucus racemosa' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-02-24.

A deciduous shrub, 8 to 12 ft high, and as much through; young bark glabrous, pith white. Leaves pinnate, 6 to 9 in. long, composed of five leaflets, which are oval or ovate, 2 to 4 in. long, 34 to 134 in. wide, taper-pointed, sharply and regularly toothed, glabrous on both surfaces. Flowers produced during April in terminal pyramidal panicles 112 to 3 in. high, scarcely so much wide; yellowish white. Berries scarlet; ripe in June and July; packed tightly in panicles.

Native of Europe, Asia Minor, Siberia, and W. Asia, cultivated in England since the 16th century. This very beautiful-fruited shrub is only occasionally seen in perfection in this country, although it grows well and flowers abundantly. It fruits admirably near Paris, and those who have visited the upland valleys of Switzerland in July will have marked its great beauty there. Whilst not a native of Britain it has established itself in a remarkable way in Scotland. On the slopes of the hills bordering the Tweed in one area, at least, above Peebles, it occurs in broad masses.

It would be an exaggeration to assert that S. racemosa never fruits in southern England, for it has done so in many places, but it cannot be regarded as a reliable fruiter in all areas. Why this should be is uncertain. Some gardeners have reported that fruits form but are taken by the birds before they have coloured. It has also been suggested that some seedlings and clones are self-incompatible, i.e., do not set fruit when self-pollinated, or pollinated by another plant of the same clone. But if we are denied too frequently its attractive fruits, it has on the other hand sported into a number of coloured and cut-leaved forms, which are amongst the best of their class, and thrive well.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

† cv. ‘Sutherland Gold. – A seedling of ‘Plumosa Aurea’, of a less intense gold but said to hold its colour better than does its parent when grown in full sun, and to be more vigorous. Raised in Canada. Of doubtful value for British gardens.

† S. sieboldiana (Miq.) Graebn. S. racemosa var. sieboldiana Miq. – At one time confused with S. racemosa, this species differs in its laxer inflorescences and smaller fruits, 18 in. or slightly more wide. It is variable in the colour of its fruits, from bright red to yellow, with intermediate shades.

The present plants at Kew are from seeds collected in Japan by Brian Halliwell. It also occurs in Korea and has a variety that extends into the Ussuri region of Russia.

f. laciniata (Koch) Zab

Leaflets deeply and pinnately lobed, the lobes linear, pointed, not more than {1/12} in. wide. This description is made from a cultivated plant of unknown origin, but laciniated plants occur occasionally in the wild, and indeed the botanical name is founded on a wild plant. See also ‘Ornata’, ‘Plumosa’ and ‘Tenuifolia’.


The lower leaves of the shoots cut more or less as in ‘Plumosa’, the uppermost more finely laciniated. Raised by Messrs Simon-Louis from ‘Plumosa’, described 1891.


Leaflets up to 5 in. long and 1{1/4} in. wide, the teeth reaching half-way to the midrib. Put into commerce by Späth in 1886. He received it from Russia.

'Plumosa Aurea'

A wholly golden form of ‘Plumosa’, and one of the most attractive of golden-leaved shrubs. Sent out by Messrs Wezelenburg in 1895, and given an Award of Merit in that year.


Petals rose-coloured on the back. Mentioned by Sweet in 1826.


Flowers nearly pure white.

'Sutherland Gold'


Leaflets divided quite to the midrib into long narrow segments, often doubly pinnate. A very handsome and graceful shrub with fern-like foliage, not a strong grower and therefore useful for small gardens. Of the same origin as ‘Ornata’.