Botanical name: Sambucusnigra

Common names: Elder


  • Name thought to originate from ‘aeld’, meaning fire: hollow stems used as bellows to blow air into the centre of a fire.
  • Mature trees can reach 15m. Short trunk and grey-brown corky furrowed bark.
  • Grows in woodland, scrub hedgerows and wasteland.
  • Leaves: feather-like, with 5-7 pairs of oval serrated leaflets.. Mildly poisonous.
  • Flowers: Clumps of small white/creamy flowers highly scented with five petals. Mildly poisonous. Elderflowers are used to make wine, cordial or tea or fried to make fritters.
  • Fruits: Small purple-black, sour berries which ripen from late-summer to autumn. Rich in vitamin C. Mildly poisonous and should be cooked before eating. Used to make preserves and wine and can be baked in pies. Favourite of birds and other wildlife.

Dying Properties

  • Colour: Elderberries: Purples and lilacs; with iron mordant: warm greys

Bark and leaves: pale pinks and greens

  • Parts used/Foraging Season: Elderberries (late summer- autumn), bark and leaves (all year)


Cottage end of Poet’s path