Elder, Sambucus nigra is flowering now, although it is not common north of the Volcanic Plateau in New Zealand. But it is very common south of the Plateau and in the South Island. I wanted an elder bush because all parts of it are so healing. When I saw plants in Northland, I took cuttings and now have a flowering shrub, proving it can grow here in the Bay of Plenty. It was growing ‘like a weed’ in Canterbury where I’ve just been. We picked and dried the flowers. I will use it for tea.
It is a deciduous shrub growing up to 6m tall, with large leaves divided into
five to seven leaflets. The creamy white flowers grow in a dense flattish group, and both leaves and flowers have a distinctive smell. Clusters of drooping black fruits follow the flowers, known as elderberries.
Elder likes to grow on forest margins, regenerating land and waste places. It is native to Africa, West Asia and Europe, where it grows prolifically, my brother in Denmark tells me.