Elder - Elderberry
(Elder or Elderberry) is a genus of between 5 and 30 species of shrubs or small
trees (two species herbaceous), formerly treated in the honeysuckle family
Caprifoliaceae, but now shown by genetic evidence to be correctly classified in
the moschatel family Adoxaceae. The genus is native to temperate to subtropical
regions of both the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere; the genus
is more widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, with Southern Hemisphere
occurrence restricted to parts of Australasia and South America.
The leaves are opposite, pinnate, with 5-9 leaflets (rarely 3 or 11), each leaf 5-30 cm long, the leaflets with a serrated margin. They bear large clusters of small white or cream coloured flowers in the late spring, that are followed by clusters of small red, bluish or black (rarely yellow or white) berries. Species have lifespans between 80 and 100 years.
The berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds. Elders are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail, Buff Ermine, Dot Moth, Emperor Moth, The Engrailed, Swallow-tailed Moth and The V-pug. The crushed foliage and immature fruit have a strong fetid smell. Dead elder wood is the preferred habitat of the mushroom Auricularia auricula-judae, also known as "Judas' ear fungus".
Valley elderberry longhorn beetle in California are very often found around red or blue elderberry bushes. Females lay their eggs on the bark. Larvae hatch and burrow into the stems.