Elderberry, Blue;  Sambucus mexicana

Late Bloomer.  Shrub to small tree, white fragrant flowers in flat-topped clusters, edible blue berries.

Notes:  Honeysuckle family.  It is found at the beginning of  our Buttermilk Bend walks, just inside the gate from the parking lot to the left of the Osage Orange Tree.  A beautiful and useful plant with large heads of flowers, followed by clusters of BB-sized berries.  They are one of the best tasting berries (similar to Boysenberries) and are rich in Vitamin C,  good in wine and jelly but bitter when raw.  Grandma’s elderberry wine was a staple in the old days.  Berries are also used in cakes, pancakes, sauces, and wine syrup.  Red Elderberries are toxic and shouldn’t be eaten.  

Leaves can be ill-smelling but were used for a green dye.  The berries were used for purple dye and the twigs for black dye.  Native Americans also prized the leaves for a tea, used for fevers, stomach aches, colds and flu, and as a mild laxative.  The inner bark yields a strong emetic (inducing vomiting).  The fresh flowers were brewed for an antiseptic skin wash and drunk to stop bleeding in the lungs.  Flowers are also edible as ‘fritters,’ dipped in batter and fried -- a gourmet treat.  Also called The Tree of  Music, and Pipe Tree.  Evidence as far back as the Stone Age shows the hollow stems were made into flutes and clappers (also arrow shafts).  Spirits were said to live in the shrub, so it was not to be cut down or burned.

This species is not found in the USDA database under the above name.  A search in Calflora gives the plant at link, where its new name is given as Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis.  Under this name USDA gives:

Click on the species name below to go to USDA for this plant.

Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
    Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
        Superdivision Spermatophyta -- Seed plants
            Division Magnoliophyta -- Flowering plants
                Class Magnoliopsida -- Dicotyledons
                    Subclass Asteridae
                        Order Dipsacales
                            Family Caprifoliaceae -- Honeysuckle family
                                Genus Sambucus L. -- elderberry P
                                    Species Sambucus nigra L. -- European black elderberry
                                        Sambucus nigra L. ssp. canadensis (L.) R. Bolli
                                        -- common elderberry

Elderberry, Blue (Sambucus mexicana)
Photo by Brother Alfred Brousseau,
Courtesy of St. Mary's College of California.