Elder, elderberry, black elder, European elder, European elderberry, European black elderberry (Eng), saúco, sabuco (Spa), saüc, saüquer, bonarbre (Cat), intsusa (Baq), sabugueiro, bieiteiro (Glg), sabugueiro (Por).
“An elder makes not good ties, nor a brother-in-law give good advice”.
(Popular Spanish proverb)
The elder is a branching shrub with dense foliage that can attain the height of a tree between 7-9 m tall. The trunk and the branches have a corky consistency and the young stems are hollow, with white pith in the interior. The leaves are deciduous, opposite and compound, with 3-7 leaflets, always in an odd number (odd-pinate). These leaflets are dark green, with a finely serrated margin, are oval in shape, and have an elongated tip. The whitish flowers bloom in spring in very numerous and compact groups; they are tiny, but very showy and aromatic. Once fertilised they form fruits, also in numerous groups, that are smaller than a pea and black when ripe.
The elder grows in well developed soils as long as there is sufficient moisture. We find it in valleys and on the banks of watercourses. It needs a lot of light, its growth is fast but its longevity is limited and it does not usually live for more than fifty years.
This species lives in Europe, Asia and northern Africa. The fact that it is grown as an ornamental means that it can now be found across the globe. On the Iberian Peninsula it mainly occurs, and is most abundant, in the northern half. In the centre and the south it is more scattered, and on the Balearic Islands it is only found in Ibiza.