Elderberry Plants Native to Pennsylvania
The elderberry species growing native in Pennsylvania are woody shrubs, capable of forming thickets. Pennsylvania has two types of elderberries, with one possessing a much larger geographic distribution across the rest of North America than the other has. Pennsylvania elderberries are easy to identify due to their features, especially the fruit they produce.
American elder (Sambucus canadensis) grows across all of the Eastern United States, with Pennsylvania within its range. American elder grows to 12 feet tall and has a multiple-stemmed form, growing quickly once established. The American elder has compound leaves, as do all the elderberry species. The leaves feature a main axis with from five to 11 leaflets attached to it via short stalks; the leaflets can be as long as 4 inches. The American elder has white flowers developing in flattened clusters called cymes at the end of its branches. The flowers bloom in July and turn into drooping groups of blackish-purple fruit. The edible elderberries are only ¼ inch in diameter, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and they ripen by September. In Pennsylvania, American elder typically grows near brooks, streams and rivers. The shrub can grow in thick muck and emerge in the bottomlands close by to waterways.
Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) grows taller than the American elder, reaching 20 feet high on occasion. Red elderberry starts growing as soon as spring arrives, with its yellowish-white flowers blooming from April through July. The berries are red and mature as early as July. The compound leaves of red elderberry have five to seven leaflets, with these leaflets as long as 9 inches. Red elderberry ranges across the East and along the Northern states into the Northwest. While it grows near waterways, red elderberry also thrives in damp woodland clearings and in ravines in Pennsylvania. Red elderberry foliage has such a strong smell to it that one of the nicknames of the plant is stinking elderberry.
The two Pennsylvania elderberries attract birds, as birds eat the berries. Landscaping possibilities exist with these two elderberries, as you can use them in wet areas such as bogs and swamps. Elderberry has few significant pests with diseases such as leaf spot and powdery mildew not considered major problems for these species. Cultivars of the Pennsylvania elderberries include Sutherland Golden, a hybrid of red elderberry that features yellow leaves and grows just 3 feet tall. The York and Adams cultivars of American elder produce large fruit in great amounts and are desirable for those that use elderberries to make preserves and pies. The root systems of the elderberries prevent erosion, another useful aspect of these plants, especially along rivers and streams.