Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Perhaps my camera should break every January. I mean, really: who wants to look at dreary photos of plants in a bleak, wintry landscape when we can reminisce about warmer days?

Like the day in May that I took this photo of Sambucus nigra, or elder, or elderberry, growing in the Liz Christy Garden:

The flowers are beautiful, creamy white corymbs. Corymbs are flat-topped flower structures. The most popular flower structure of course (after the simple flower), is the panicle, which is a cone-shaped flower. Paniculata is a popular species name as it refers to this flower shape. Other flower structures include racemes, spikes, catkins, spadices, and umbels.

The flowers and the black-colored (thus, S. "nigra") elderberries that follow are non-toxic, however the rest of the plant is poisonous if ingested raw in high quantities. When processed into a syrup, the plant has been proven to reduce some cold and flu symptoms. But, don't try that at home, kids.

The flowers are used in drinks such as an elderflower cordial and the equally-obviously named Sambuca. The berries, like many others, are used in jams and jellies.