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Elderberries have been referred to as "the medicine cabinet of the common folk" in recent years. While elderberries are attractive, elder blooms are also a sight to behold. Learn about the elder flower's benefits and characteristics. Utilizing elderflowers can be the summertime high point!

All About Elder

Referring to Sambucus nigra (European) and Sambucus canadensis for the sake of this essay (North American).

Depending on where you reside, an elderberry bush or small tree can survive in zones 3 to 8. Although it yields fewer fruit in gloomy regions, it prefers sun or light shade. It can be found anywhere, from creek sides to forest borders and ditches, loves nitrogen-rich soil, but tolerates low soils. While using a tiller near an elder tree in your yard, exercise caution because they have a shallow root system and are vulnerable to injury.

Although there has been discussion about moving elder into the Adoxaceae, or viburnum family, it is currently classified as a member of the Caprifoliaceae, or honeysuckle family. The nigra is a native of western Asia, North Africa, and Europe. North and Central America are the original home of Canadensis. The opposite, compound leaves of elder have five to nine toothed, oblong leaflets. On the underside, the leaves are a lighter shade of dark green. The bark is pale brown or gray.

The pith of the stem makes it simple to hollow it out, and it has been used as a tap for gathering maple sap. Children have also been known to hollow out the stem and use it to construct whistles and pea shooters. The pith was traditionally conserved to be used as a fire starter.

Depending on where you live, the fragrant blooms start to bloom in the late spring or the early summer. Despite the fact that some sources call them corymbs, these are creamy, white umbels. These can be up to eight inches across in width. While harvesting, select the flowers that are fully open in the center because they open from the outside to the inside. Keep in mind that the more blossoms you remove, the fewer berries you will have later in the summer. When dried, flowers will turn black, so avoid picking them right after a storm or while they are wet.

One of three methods of propagation is through seeds, suckers, or root divisions. Follow the directions carefully if you plan to grow elder from seed; the seeds need to be soaked and stratified to ensure germination.

The Myth

One of those plants shrouded in enigma, mysticism, and superstition is elder. The name "Elder" is not a coincidence.

The elder was said to have a spirit that could not be offended, according to the ancient Celts. It was frequently planted around homes as a form of defense (particularly against lightning), but one had to be careful not to enrage the Older Mother should she summon lightning. When cutting a branch, permission was always requested three times. But, branches were never to be used for woodworking or as firewood because doing so would summon ghosts. Old Celtic rhyme serves as a reminder:

"Elder be ye Lady’s tree, burn it not, or cursed ye’ll be."

Around elders, it was common to find gifts of bread, beer, cake, milk, and water. Also, the Celts occasionally placed elder trees on the graves of their loved ones because they thought that blossoms were a sign of contented spirits.

If elder juice was applied around someone's eyes, it was thought that one might see witches in ancient England. Celtic and Germanic ladies would frequently kiss the elder to assure the good fortune of their unborn children.

Fans of Harry Potter will recall that an elder wand has the strongest magic. Elder flower was a symbol of purged love, compassion, and vigor in the language of flowers.

The Allure of Elder Flower Use

Elder blooms have long been used in cuisine, cosmetics, and medicinal. In reality, some applications for elder blossom date back hundreds of years!


Topical infusions of elder blossoms have been used since ancient Egypt to lessen facial wrinkles, lighten freckles, and fade age spots. Eczema, measles, and skin rashes were all improved with a stronger infusion. Moreover, infusions were added to baths for sunburns and lotions for dry hands.

Oil-infused flowers were helpful for diaper rashes. When there are lesions on the scalp, the infusion has also been utilized as a rinse for the hair and scalp.


Elder is mentioned in ancient manuscripts from Hippocrates (460–370 BC), Dioscorides (40–90 AD), and Pliney the Elder (23–79 AD), demonstrating its long history of use in herbal therapy.

The Anatomy of Elder, a 230-page book written in Latin by Dr. Martin Blochwich, was first published in 1644. It outlines the usage of elder for 70 various ailments and was published in English in 1677. ( The book has been digitized and is currently accessible, however printing might not happen until the publisher has received a number of orders. Although being challenging to read, it is still fascinating and instructive.

Modern herbalists advise taking an elder flower infusion as a diaphoretic to stimulate sweating during a cold or flu since the blooms' energetics are bitter and barely sweet, dry, and chilly.

When stressed by colds, the flu, or sinusitis, elder flowers have an anti-inflammatory impact on the upper respiratory system. Elder flower, yarrow, and mint are traditionally combined in equal parts to treat respiratory issues. When there is pain, adding boneset is also thought to be beneficial.


Elder Flower Fritters

Ingredients Fresh elder flowers, with the stem intact Pre-made pancake mix (One where you only add water is perfect.) Directions

  • Wash the flowers and let them dry, or shake them and let them sit out for an hour. There may be a few small bugs, but they will vacate!

  • Mix a batch of pancake batter, following the package instructions.

  • Dip the flowers in the batter, using the stem as a handle.

  • Using a mild oil, deep fry the flowers – stems up—until golden brown.

  • Put the finished flowers on several layers of paper towels and let them cool slightly. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

  • Enjoy – but don’t eat the stems. The larger stems have alkaloids, so it’s best to avoid them.

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