How to identify an elder tree

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how to identify an elder tree

How do you identify an elder tree?

Wondering if you are looking at an elder tree? Your clues are their leaves, flowers and fruit. Here’s what they look like at-a-glance:

elder leaves
elder buds
elder berries

Elder tree facts

Hello! In today’s guide we are going to learn how to identify an elder tree. Are you ready? Let’s get started! Here are a few elder tree facts:

  • Common name: Elder
  • Latin name: Sambucus nigra
  • Family: Adoxaceae

Elder trees can grow up to 15 meters tall, live for up to 60 years and prefer growing in woodlands and hedgerows.

elder leaves

Elder leaves

Elder leaves are pinnate, lightly toothed and grow in opposite pairs.

elder buds

Elder buds

The buds are scruffy looking and raggedy.


Elder flowers

Elders have tiny, 5-petalled creamy-white flowers in large umbel-like clusters.

elder berries

Elder berries

The berries are small, purpley-black and grow in clusters on purpley-red stems.

Trees that look similar to elder

elder leaves

elder leaves

identifying ash leaves

ash leaves


Ash leaves look similar to elder, but they are thinner, narrower and have more leaflets per stem.

Elder tree uses

  • Medicinal – Elder is traditionally used as an immune tonic
  • Dyes – The elder gives a variety of dyes – blue and purple (berries), yellow or green (leaf), grey and black (bark)
  • Bushcraft – Elder trees are valuable food plants – their flowers and berries are both edible (though berries need cooking)
  • Wildlife – Many birds, animals and moths feed on the flowers and fruit of this tree

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