They called it Sambucus, long ago, because that was the Latin name for a musical instrument, and it was known thai the stout, pithy stems of elder could be hollowed and made into a rude flute. And Sambucus, the elderberry, retains that name to this day.


Sambucus canadensis L.

June - July Roadside ditches.

The pith-filled stems are brittle and East-growing. Quickly, in spring, the old wood sprouts its leaf buds and stem buds and soon the elderberry bush is covered with compound, graceful, bright green leaves. Then in early June, when schools over the Illinois countryside are letting out for the Bummer, the elderberry flowers bloom. Here are broad, fragrant, creamy panicles of small flowers with protruding stamens in each quarter-inch blossom in the cluster. Bees come, and butterflies and other insects, for the fragrance of the elder flowers is strong and carries a distance away from the bush. It is at this stage that some connoisseurs gather the heads of flowers, soak them in brandy and sugar for an hour, dip them in batter, and fry quickly in hot fat - elder flower fritters of utmost delicacy and flavor.

In late summer and autumn the creamy panicles of bloom are replaced by heavy, drooping clusters of dark purplish-red-black berries which are devoured eagerly by migrant robins and cedar waxwings, late catbirds and thrashers and other fruit-eating birds. Now others gather the fruits - people who make wine of them, or jelly, or pie. The elderberry tangles are popular places in autumn both for birds and people. The seedy rather flat-tasting berries become more flavorful with the spark of lemon juice or a little vinegar, and much sugar, in making a pie. or by added pectin or pectin-filled fruit in the process of jelly-making.