Shrub to 3 m tall Leaves: opposite, pinnately compound. Leaflets five to eleven (usually seven), to 10 cm long, to 5 cm wide, lance-shaped to egg-shaped with pointed tip, sharply saw-toothed, often hairy beneath. Flowers: borne in large, flat-topped or dome-shaped terminal clusters (cymes), white, 3 - 5 mm wide, fragrant, numerous. Cyme five-rayed from base, lacking central axis beyond lowermost branches, to 30 cm wide (much broader than long). Corolla five-lobed. Stamens five. Anthers yellow. Fruit: berry-like (drupe), juicy, in clusters, dark purple (seldom yellow, green, or red), 5 mm long. There are three to five stones inside each drupe. Twigs: scarcely woody when young. Pith large, white. Form: upright.
Similar species: Sambucus racemosa ssp. pubens is similar but has egg-shaped cymes, a brown pith, fruit that is usually bright red, and a flowering time that ends by June. Also, the occasional variety S. canadensis var. acutiloba differs by having deeply dissected leaves.
Flowering: June to late August
Habitat and ecology: Common in degraded woodlands and shaded floodplains. It is also common along roadsides, fencerows, and small streams.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: The pith of this plant is soft enough to be removed from the stem, enabling the stem to be made into a whistle or flute.
Etymology: Sambucus comes from the Greek word sambuke, a musical instrument made of elder wood. Canadensis means "of or from Canada and North America."
Author: The Morton Arboretum
Shrub to 3 m, spreading underground and eventually forming thickets; younger stems scarcely woody, with long internodes and large white pith; lfls 5-11, usually 7, lanceolate to ovate, variable in size, acuminate, sharply serrate (rarely laciniate), the lower occasionally divided into 3, glabrous or more often hairy beneath; infl 5-rayed from the base, flat or convex, 5-15 cm wide; fls white, 3-5 mm wide; fr purple-black (seldom red, green, or yellow), edible, 5 mm; 2n=36. Moist woods, fields, and roadsides; N.S. and Que. to Man. and S.D., s. to Mex. and the W. Ind. July, Aug. The common phase in most of our range, with the lf-pubescence mostly setulose and largely restricted to the veins, is var. canadensis. Ozarkian plants, from Ill. to Tex., with fine short pubescence on both the veins and the lf-surface, may be distinguished as var. submollis Rehder.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Fruit, when mature, a purple black. In moist soil throughout the state. It is found in wet, open woodland, about lakes, and along streams and fences. The leaves and leaflets of this species are variable. Rarely some of the leaves are bipinnate at the base. The pubescence of the lower surface of the leaflets varies from slightly pubescent to densely soft-pubescent (var. submollis Rehder). The densely pubescent form is more or less frequent throughout the state. The pubescence often varies much on the same plant and it is of no advantage to divide our plants on this basis since all intermediate forms can be found.