Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Sambucus nigra L.

Fully hardy, upright bushy shrub with pinnate leaves, to 25cm long, composed of 5 toothed, ovate leaflets, and flattened panicles, to 20cm across, of small, musk-scented, white flowers in summer, followed by edible, spherical, glossy black fruit.  [RHSE, Hortus, Hilliers’].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Over the centuries the elder was an important wild hedgerow crop in England, amongst other uses, both flowers and fruit making excellent wine.  The spirit Sambuca is flavoured with elderberry.  ‘Elder.  Sambucus.  This is a common Hedge Tree, & seldom grows to any great bigness.  The leaves are a light grass green, the flowers white, and the berries a deep purple.  It grows frequently on hedges near ditches, and flowers in May the berries being ripe in September.  The bark, leaves, flowers & berries are used.  The inner bark is much used for the dropsy.  The leaves outwardly are good for inflammations, St. Anthony’s Fire & the piles; the flowers are used for the same, and are also put in fomentations and cataplasms for all kinds of swellings, tumours, & pains in the limbs; inwardly they expel wind, & help the cholic.  The berries are cordial & useful in histeric disorders.  On the trunk of this tree grows an excrescence which they call Jews Ears, being accounted good for ye swellings & inflammation of the tonsils, sore throats and quinseys.’  [Blackwell pl.151/1737].

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [T.923/1843].


Sambucus nigra Marsh. (1785) = Sambucus canadensis L.

Sambucus nigra Lour. (1790) = Sambucus loureiriana DC.

Sambucus nigra Thunb. (1784) = Sambucus racemosa L.

Published Jul 08, 2009 - 05:03 PM | Last updated Jul 16, 2010 - 02:06 PM

Figured are pinnate leaves, small white flowers and deep red berries.  Blackwell pl.151, 1737.

Sambucus nigra L. | Blackwell pl.151/1737 | BHL

Family Caprifoliaceae
Region of origin

Europe, North Africa, Asia

Common Name

Black elder, Bourtree, Common elder, Elderberry, European elder

Name in the Camden Park Record

Sambucus nigra - Elder tree 

Confidence level high