American black elderberry is a member of the Adoxaceae, the Moschatel family. Species in this family are small to large shrubs, with a few small trees.
This shrub is 6.5 – 13 ft tall, usually on the smaller end than larger. One to many somewhat weak stems arise from the crown. Young stems have a large white pith while older stems are mostly hollow. Leaves are opposite and pinnately compound. Flowers are borne in 5 – 9 in wide clusters (inflorescences) at tips of branches. Clusters may contain several hundred flowers. White 4- to 5-petaled flowers are small, only about 0.1 in wide. Fruits are purple-black berries about 0.25 in in diameter.
American black elderberry is usually found in moist, edge habitat, in full or light shade. It is often on lake and pond shores, low areas along road ways, in low forest and old fields. It is native across most of the U.S and some of Canada.
This species flowers in June to July depending on the part of the country in which it is found. Bees, wasps, and beetles are strongly attracted to the flowers. Fruits ripen in August to September and are eaten by many species of birds and mammals.
The flowers of this species are used to make wine and the fruits are used to make pies and various jams and preserves. Many varieties are available commercially for ornamental as well as culinary use. As some people react negatively to the raw fruit, they should not be eaten unless cooked.
Description and photos taken from U.S. Forest Service (David Taylor)