Black Beauty Elderberry – Sambucus nigra ‘Gerda’
A Black Beauty elderberry in full bloom is a sight to behold. Black Beauty is a trademarked name for Sambucus nigra ‘Gerda’. It, unlike the straight species, has foliage and young stems that are shades of purple. The leaves are dark, sometimes black in appearance. They are large and divided into 5 – 7 distinct leaflets. The tiny flowers are pink and white and are organized into a flattened, wide inflorescence called a corymb. They give off a lemon scent. Flowering occurs late spring into early summer, after which large clusters of fruits begin to form. The ripe fruits are highly desirable to birds.
Elderberry is a deciduous shrub that can be kept short by pruning it down to the ground each year. If left unpruned, it can reach up to 15 feet or more. Selective pruning can keep it at whatever height is desired. It prefers regular water and full sun, but can tolerate dry soil once it is established. Besides being appealing to wildlife, the fruits are eaten by humans. They are used to make jams, jellies, syrup, and wine.
At Idaho Botanical Garden, Black Beauty elderberry can be found looking spectacular in the herbaceous border of the English Garden as well as in the peony bed in the Meditation Garden. The English Garden is also home to laceleaf elderberry (Sambucus canadensis ‘Laciniata’). Other elderberries can be spotted in the Vegetable Garden, Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden, and Idaho Native Plant Garden.
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Written by IBG horticulturist, Daniel Murphy.