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7 Different Types of Elderberries

Elderberries are known for their medicinal uses since the early period. Though they may look the same, there are varieties of Elderberries find out in this article.

A lady holding a Elderberries with green and ripe fruits.

For most of my life, I assumed that all elderberries were the same; after all, they all pretty much look the same. But today we’re going to explore all the different types of elderberries that you may not have heard of, including info on where to find them, their properties, and the fascinating history of this powerful berry. Keep reading for more. 

Elderberries

We can’t talk about the types of elderberries without first defining what an elderberry is. The elderberry’s scientific name is Sambucus, and it comes in really tiny sizes when compared to other types of berries, and it is typically black in color. 

History of Elderberries

Elderberry juice in a bottle and a chop board.

One of the earliest discoveries of elderberry seeds was in Switzerland, in 2000 B.C.  However, further research shows that they have been in existence since before that time. In fact, these berries were used to make medicine during the Stone and Bronze Ages. 

Ancient Greeks were the first to use these berries as medicine and this was actually during the time of Christ. It is said that this berry tree was linked to Judas and the cross of Jesus Christ, and the tree was planted in most Roman homes because they found the fruit very significant in the 700s C.E. 

Over the centuries, elderberries were used as medicine to treat colds and flu, among other maladies; an application for which they are still utilized to this day. A syrup made from elderberry.

Types of Elderberries

Here are the different types of elderberries that you’ll find today:

1. York

York elderberries appear very tiny in size and they typically have a dark color but can take on a brighter appearance before falling for the winter season, indicating that they are ripe for harvest. 

History 

York elderberries originated in America where they were used for many applications, like food and medicine. In fact, they were used as medicines by American Indians and other explorers and researchers for centuries. What makes these deep, dark-colored berries special is the fact that they can grow spontaneously in the wild and they’re usually a source of food for birds and other animals. 

Pros

  • York elderberries can grow in any kind of soil.
  • They can be used as a natural fencing solution since they can grow up to 12 feet tall and add beautiful color to your garden and your home’s curb appeal with their beautiful white flowers.
  • They can be paired with other types of elderberries for pollination.
  • They can be used in many different types of dishes. 
  • They’re high in vitamin D, a fact that only adds to their health properties.  

Cons

  • They can cause diarrhea if consumed excessively. 
  • The trees are good for fencing but can be harmful to little kids.
  • They may cause allergies.

2. Adams

Elderberry plant with a bunch of fruits.

Adams elderberry trees can grow up to 10 feet tall and they have the ability to produce beautiful white flowers as well as huge clusters of dark purple fruits.  

History

Adam elderberries are easy to grow and are originally endemic to North America. These berries typically grow in spring since that’s the kind of weather they are adapted to. Though Adams elderberries are known to be independent, they can be paired with York berries for pollination. 

Pros

  • These elderberries are typically used as medicine to support the lungs.
  • They can be used to make wine.
  • The plant grows very fast and offers a quick harvest. 

Cons

  • They are selective about the kind of soil they should grow in and they prefer well-drained soil.
  • They don’t do well with too much exposure to sunlight.
  • They can be addictive.

3. Lemony Lace

Flowering Elderberry plantation ready for harvest.

These types of elderberries are resistant to deer, cold and windy weather but they can bloom well in the sunshine. This plant has a beautiful color and it can grow to 5 feet tall, with leaves that tend to look green or yellow. 

History

This wild type of elderberry has its roots in the Northern United States and can also be found in the Southern states. Over time, the lemony lace elderberry has adapted to the weather conditions in these places to the point where it has become endemic to them. 

Pros

  • Lemony lace elderberries are easy to grow and they have fewer complications.
  • These types of elderberries can adapt to any environment.
  • During spring they can produce beautiful white flowers that can brighten your garden and provide a beautiful hedge for you. Even the berries themselves are so beautiful that they’ll create a wonderful view of your house while complimenting the lush green landscape of your yard. 

Cons

  • When left untended, the hedge can be dangerous for children and pets. 
  • Compared to other types of elderberries, this one doesn’t have fast growth. It grows slowly and steadily, producing lots of fruit when it does eventually flower. 
  • Lemony lace elderberries are very selective in weather. They prefer the hot season to cold, windy weather conditions. 

4. Instant Karma

Wild Elderberry with a lot of fruits.

Instant karma elderberries are extremely rare and attractive to living organisms like butterflies and birds. The large exposed flowers of this berry are so beautiful that these living organisms just can’t stay away from them, and if you plant them in your home, you can expect them to grow up to six feet tall while beautifying the environment around them. 

History

Instant karma berries typically grow in Europe, Asia, and North America, where they are revered for their lush and varied foliage. In order to grow well, these berries prefer areas with low to moderate temperatures, and they’re typically harvested during the fall and winter seasons, which is the best time to enjoy them. 

Pros

  • This type of elderberry is known as one of the most productive plants in the garden.
  • This plant can be used to create clean and attractive foliage in the garden and all around the home. 
  • They provide clean and neat flowers displaying a beautiful green and white color.
  • They attract bees, which can be good for pollination and honey.

Cons

  • Instant karma elderberries can be extremely sweet for those with a high level of sugar in their bodies or those who are diabetic.
  • Because they tend to attract bees to the garden, the presence of these elderberries can prove harmful to your children, especially those who are allergic to bee stings. 

5. Blue

An Elderberry tree with flowers in a field.

Blue elderberries have a beautiful grayish or purple color and a round shape. They can grow up to 30 feet tall and spread to a wide 18 feet.

History

This plant originated in the Western United States and it’s endemic to Mexico as well. 

Pros

  • These berries are known for overproducing, making them perfect for anyone who is looking to make their own elderberry tinctures, jams, and teas. 
  • They can help to boost the immune system.
  • They help reduce stress.
  • They protect your heart from a variety of diseases.

Cons

  • Although highly productive, these elderberries are difficult to germinate.
  • To some individuals, they may cause an allergic reaction. 
  • Taken in excess, they can cause stomach pain and diarrhea.
  • You need to consume them while they are fresh because, once damaged, they can cause health problems. 

6. Black Lace

Black lace Elderberry with fruits.

Black lace has a dark leaf that appears lacy throughout the entire growing season, hence the name “black lace” elderberries. However, when the season changes, the flowers turn pink, adding a unique and whimsical feel to your garden bed. Compared to other types of elderberries, this type of elderberry does not grow that tall and can only go up to 8 feet tall.

History

Black lace elderberries were initially cultivated in England during the 1980s, which is why they’re often referred to as “the European elderberry”. This plant has a stylish, dark purple-red appearance with narrow leaves that are puffy. 

These elderberries have a very distinct lemon smell and even though they are dark in the beginning, they eventually blossom into a beautiful pink hue. 

With the young flower, the stems are purple; but as they grow they change to a gray and brown color. 

Pros

  • Their unique color can add a vibrant look to your home garden. 
  • Although relatively short, they can help to create the perfect hedge for your other crops.
  • They are easy to take care of and they grow fast.
  • They are wonderful for mass planting.

Cons

  • Even though they can add a beautiful style to your home, planting these elderberries can be harmful to little children because their flowers have thorns.
  • Compared to other elderberry varieties, black lace elderberries are not that good for fencing because they are short.

7. Black Beauty

Black beauty elderberry with pink flowers.

Black elderberry plants are characterized by pretty pink flowers and when it’s time to harvest, you’ll find cute, petite berries waiting for you. This happens to be one of the smallest types of elderberry, while the plant can grow to a height of up to 6 feet tall. 

Like most berries in this category, black elderberries can be used to make wine and they’re actually really good. 

History

These berries were first introduced in the United States in 2004 and have proved to be one of the best categories for casual gardeners. 

Pros

  • They grow fast
  • They can be easily pruned to any size.
  • They are good for making wine. 
  • They are not selective when it comes to the kind of weather they are grown in. Whether moist, dry, or wet, these fruits are likely to grow there.

Cons

  • They can attract birds to your garden, thus causing damage to some of your crops.
  • Overconsumption of this elderberry can cause you to vomit.
  • They can lead to severe diarrhea when consumed in excess. 
  • The safe ones are the ones that are cooked; uncooked ones can be downright toxic.
  • Surprisingly, consuming these elderberries in excess can lead to a runny nose.