The Native Elderberry

The Native Elderberry

The native elderberry (Sambucus autralasica) is a useful bush food to have in the garden with its culinary uses akin to exotic elderberries (used to make elderberry wine, cordials and jam). Since it is a shrub that only grows to 4m and can be readily pruned to keep it at a suitable size, this plant will not take up a lot of space.

The plant is found in the wild along the edges of rainforests from north Queensland, along the east coast to Tasmania. In cultivation, it tolerates a wide range of conditions from sandy to clay soils, and light to heavy shade. It prefers a moist, well mulched soil that is neutral to slightly alkaline but will grow in exposed, windy areas so long as there is no salt spray. It can also survive in areas with atmospheric pollution. It has shown no indication of weed potential.

Sambucus australasica – Photograph by Poyt448 Peter Woodard – Own work, Public Domain,

With its glossy green compound leaves composed of 3 – 5 lanceolate leaflets, and terminal clusters of tiny cream-yellow flowers during spring and summer, this makes an attractive addition to even the smallest garden. The round, yellow fruit forms from February through to July. Although each individual fruit is small (about 5mm in diameter), they are easily picked since they occur in dense groups. That the fruit can be eaten raw (the taste varies from slightly sweet to slightly bitter) or cooked and attracts fruit-eating birds is an added advantage to growing this plant.

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