Page authors: Don Knoke, David Giblin
Sambucus cerulea
blue elderberry

Distribution: Widely distributed on both sides of the Cascades crest in Washington; southern British Columbia to California, east to the Rocky Mountains.

Habitat: Forest edge, fields, and roadsides from near sea level to middle elevations in the mountains.

Flowers: May-July

Origin: Native

Growth Duration: Perennial

Conservation Status: Not of concern

Pollination: Bees, flies, beetles, wasps


Coarse, deciduous shrub 2-4 m. tall, usually with several stems from the base, the twigs soft, glaucous and pithy.


Leaves opposite, petiolate, pinnately compound, with 5-9 lanceolate to lance-ovate, acuminate, sharply serrate leaflets 5-15 cm long and 2-6 cm. wide, usually glabrous.


Inflorescence a flat-topped, many-flowered umbel up to 20 cm. wide, with several rays from the base that are again branched; flowers creamy-white, 4-7 mm. across, the 5 corolla lobes longer than the flat tube; stamens 5; style very short, ovary inferior.


Fruit a globose berry, 4-6 mm. thick, bluish-black, but with a dense, pale, powder-blue bloom.

Accepted Name:
Sambucus cerulea Raf.
Publication: Alsogr. Amer. 48. 1838.

Synonyms & Misapplications:
Sambucus caerulea Raf., orthographic variant
Sambucus caerulea Raf. var. neomexicana (Wooton) Rehder, orthographic variant
Sambucus cerulea Raf. var. cerulea
Sambucus glauca Nutt.
Sambucus mexicana C. Presl ex DC. [JPM]
Sambucus mexicana C. Presl ex DC. ssp. caerulea (Raf.) E. Murray, orthographic variant
Sambucus mexicana C. Presl ex DC. var. caerulea (Raf.) E. Murray, orthographic variant
Sambucus neomexicana Wooton
Sambucus neomexicana Wooton var. vestita (Wooton & Standl.) Kearney & Peebles
Sambucus nigra L. ssp. caerulea (Raf.) R. Bolli, orthographic variant [JPM2]
Additional Resources:

PNW Herbaria: Specimen records of Sambucus cerulea in the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database.

WA Flora Checklist: Sambucus cerulea checklist entry.

OregonFlora: Sambucus cerulea information.

E-Flora BC: Sambucus cerulea atlas page.

CalPhotos: Sambucus cerulea photos.

USDA Plants: Sambucus cerulea information.

64 photographs:
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