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Sambucus (nigra)

John Vandevender
Center Manager
USDA NRCS - Appalachian Plant Materials Center
P. O. Box 390
Alderson, West Virginia 24910

Family Scientific Name: Caprifoliaceae
Family Common Name: Honeysuckle
Scientific Name: Sambucus nigra (L.) R. Bolli canadensis
Common Name: Elderberry
Species Code: SANIC4
Ecotype: Appalachian Region
General Distribution: Elderberry is widely distributed throughout most of the United states with the exception of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Colorado. It is also found throughout the eastern Canadian Provinces.
Known Invasiveness: None
Propagation Goal: Plants
Propagation Method: Seed
ProductType: Bareroot (field grown)
Stock Type: 1-0
Time To Grow: 12 months
Target Specifications: A second spring seedling ranging in height from 6" to 12" with a 1/16" to 1/8" caliper stem and a compact, well developed root system.
Propagule Collection: Seeds are harvested in the fall (August-September) by hand . Umbels are clipped from the plants and placed in containers for transport to the nursery for processing.
Propagule Processing: Berries are hand stripped from umbels. Berries are depulped using a food blender filled partially with water. The mixture is then hand screened. Empty seeds and debris are separated from viable seed by floating off in water.
Growing Area Preparation/
Annual Practices for Perennial Crops:
Best germination and growth of seedlings is in raised beds or sandy soil with adequate moisture. Prepare beds by deep rototilling or other tillage methods that achieve thorough loosening and mixing of soil.
Establishment Phase: Germination typically occurs in the spring after an overwinter period of cool, moist natural stratification.
Length of Establishment Phase: 4-6 months, including natural stratification period
Active Growth Phase: Plants require little maintenance during active growth other than application of at least 1 inch of water per week during drought conditions and elimination of weed competition. Weeds must be removed during early growth phases to avoid uprooting the elderberry seedlings.
Length of Active Growth Phase: 4-6 months
Hardening Phase: Plants are grown outdoors and experience constant climatic acclimation.
Length of Hardening Phase: none
Harvesting, Storage and Shipping: Seedlings are harvested in late winter while dormant. The best harvesting method employs a nursery bed lifter/shaker which undercuts the seedlings and gently loosens the soil around the roots. Bare root seedlings are then plucked from the loosened soil by hand.

Refrigeration is employed to maintain seedling dormancy after harvest until shipping. Optimal temperatures for maintenance of dormancy are 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit. Root desiccation during storage is prevented through packing in aged, moistened hardwood sawdust.
Length of Storage: 1-2 months
References: Dirr, Michael A. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Champaign, Illinois. Stipes Publishing, LLC.
USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 13 September 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Young, James A., and Cheryl G. Young. 1992. Seeds of Woody Plants in North America. Portland, Oregon: Dioscorides Press.


Vandevender, John. 2016. Propagation protocol for production of Bareroot (field grown) Sambucus nigra (L.) R. Bolli Plants 1-0; USDA NRCS - Appalachian Plant Materials Center Alderson, West Virginia. In: Native Plant Network. URL: http://NativePlantNetwork.org (accessed 2019/11/18). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources.

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