Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Sambucus canadensis L.

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Leaves and fruit. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO

Linnaeus, C. von (1753) Species Plantarum : 269. Type: North America.

Common name

Elder, Sweet; Elder, American; Sweet Elder; American Elder


Flowers and fruits as a shrub about 1-3 m tall.


Leaflet blades about 50 x 13 mm, stalks on the lateral leaflets nil or up to 3 mm long. Stalk on the terminal leaflet about 12 mm long. Leaflet blade margins toothed with about 10-12 teeth on each side.


Flowers unpleasantly perfumed. Petals shortly fused at the base, about 3-3.5 mm long.


Fruits black when ripe. Fruits depressed globular, about 4 mm diam., calyx persistent at the apex. Seeds about five per fruit, each about 3 mm long. Cotyledons about as wide and as long as the radicle.


Cotyledons about 12 x 3 mm, petiole about 3 mm long. First pair of leaves deeply lobed. Leaf blade margins ciliate.

Distribution and Ecology

An introduced species originally from North America now naturalised in NEQ on parts of the Atherton Tableland mainly at higher elevations i.e. over 800 m. Grows in disturbed areas of rain forest, along roads and on the sites of former settlements. Also naturalised in Java.

Natural History & Notes

Fresh plant parts contain hydrocyanic acid (HCN). Austin, D. F. 1998. Poisonous Plants of Southern Florida.

Although the ripe fruits can be eaten, the unripe fruits, stems, twigs and leaves are poisonous.

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