It is a deciduous shrub or small tree. The bark, light grey when young, changes to a coarse grey outer bark with lengthwise furrowing. The fruit is a dark purple to black berry 3–5 mm in diameter, produced in drooping clusters in the late autumn; they are an important food for many fruit-eating birds, notably Blackcaps.
Elderflower plants must be protected from hot winds and will grow in any acidic to slightly acidic, well-drained soil which has generous amounts of well-rotted organic matter or compost applied to it before planting. Water in well at planting time and ensure that the soil is kept moist at all times thereafter. Plants will respond well to regular applications of liquid fertiliser and watering throughout the growing season. In winter, prune to remove any weak or unproductive stems and cut young shoots back by half to maintain shape. Elderflower plants will reach full production after about three years.
This plant is traditionally used for its medicinal value. Stem bark, leaves, flowers, fruits and root extracts are used to treat bronchitis, coughs, upper respiratory cold infections and fever. The dark blue/purple berries can be eaten when fully ripe, cooked and can be used to make jam, jelly and chutney sauce. They also go well with blackberries and apples in pies. The flower heads are commonly used in infusions, giving a very common refreshing drink or Elderflower wine.
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