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Discover Nature: Elderberry Blooms

Missouri Department of Conservation

As spring greening leans into summer color in Missouri’s outdoors, one native shrub is beginning to blossom this week.


The elderberry shrub (Sambucus canadensis) can grow to 5 – 12 feet tall, and in late summer, produces clusters of dark, berrylike fruits that feed dozens of bird species and other wildlife. This week, though, look for these shrubs’ showy umbels of white, fragrant flowers. 


Elderberry grows well in a range of dry to moist soils, and spreads by root suckers to form colonies, making them a great plant to establish in roadside or wildlife plantings, shrub borders, raingardens, or as a natural screen in low, wet areas. 


Its leaves are toxic to humans, but the flowers and fruits have medicinal qualities, and have long been used in jellies, pies, fritters, muffins, syrup, tea, and wine, and can even be pickled. 


Learn more about elderberry and other Missouri-native shrubs at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide, or at GrowNative.org.


Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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