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The Center for Agroforestry


Elderberry: A Versatile, Easily-grown Shrub for the Midwest

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is another native species with tremendous interest and potential. Because it is a tough, multi-purpose shrub, it could easily become an important component of a variety of agroforestry practices and is well-suited to riparian forest buffers and alley cropping.


The fruit and flowers are edible, and are traditionally used for making wines, jams, syrups, and natural food colorings. However, the "nutraceutical" or health tonic market is rapidly overtaking these other markets and fueling an increasing demand for the fruit. The plant has other attributes, including attracting and benefiting birds and wildlife, tolerating somewhat wet or poor soil conditions, and producing massive root systems that can help reduce soil erosion.

More than 55 new selections of elderberry from the Midwest are under evaluation at the Southwest Center. Two of these cultivars have already proven their superiority and are slated to be named and released soon. Most of the research now being conducted focuses on very basic horticultural questions, such as how do we propagate, prune, fertilize, and protect these plants. The interest in the medicinal potential of this species has inspired additional studies to sort out the production of various anti-oxidants throughout the plant.

Key Findings, Elderberry Research:

  • Easy to grow in Missouri; easy to propagate by seed or cuttings.
  • Flowering period, fruit ripening, and fruit yield in elderberry are highly dependent on genotype and environment.
  • Knowledge of a variety of fruit juice characteristics is important in wine-making. Preliminary evaluations of elderberry juice across multiple cultivars, locations, and seasons reveal the following characteristics for elderberry juice: ?Brix = 11.94, pH = 4.65, Titratable acidity = 0.88%.**

Byers, P. and A.L. Thomas. 2005. Elderberry Research and Production in Missouri. Proceedings of the 25th Missouri Small Fruit and Vegetable Conference 25:91-97. Southwest Missouri State University. Springfield, MO.

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