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Native Tree



Sambucus nigra



Sometimes known as the Bour tree, this is common around the countryside and often found beside old farmhouses or byres, especially associated with old refuse tips or middens where it appreciates the extra nutrients in the soil. In the wild, it may be associated with badger setts.

The idea of deliberately planting elder trees - which grow again if they are chopped down, and spread rapidly on waste ground - may seem incredible to older country people. However, the elder is a very good wildlife species, with its wide heads of creamy flowers followed by hanging clusters of dark red/black berries.

As with all other species, the truly native variety has the most wildlife value (ornamental varieties are used in landscape planting). Elder seeds germinate willingly and the tree will grow in most soils.

Both elder flowers and berries may be used in cooking and for making wine. The branches have a soft pithy centre that can be removed and a section used for a homemade flute or whistle.

In nature, such hollow branches provide nest chambers for bumble bee larvae, and shelter for hibernating insects.


Collect berries as soon as they are ripe, usually in October.


The berries may be soaked and macerated or fermented to remove the flesh and release the small dark seeds.


The seeds should be sown immediately after extraction and lightly covered with soil or stratified until March.

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