top of page


Sambucus nigra caerulea

Chumash: qayas Español: Sauco

Plant Description

Category: Shrub or small tree

Origin: Western United States

Evergreen: Yes

Flower Color: White/Cream

Bloomtime: Spring

Height: Up to 30ft

Width: Up to 20ft 

Esposure: Full to Partial Sun

Drought Tolerant: Moderate

Irrigation: Some water in heat of summer

Alternate Names: Western Elderberry, Tree of music

Screen Shot 2021-03-05 at 2.39.40 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-03-05 at 2.40.07 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-03-05 at 2.40.20 PM.png

Elderberry grows as a shrub or tree reaching heights up to 30 ft. In the spring it produces hundreds of creamy white colored flowers that provide food for pollinators and medicine for humans. In the summer the blue to black berries ripen and are food for birds and are also medicinal for humans. The berries should be cooked or dried before consumption. Very small amounts can be eaten raw.

Elderberry is a perennial and is common along streams, in the forest and in chaparral. As a medicine, indigenous people throughout the world have used this plant medicinally. The flowers are used for colds, flus and fevers. The inner bark is an emetic. The fresh (not dried) berries can create nausea in some people. The berries can be used as a laxative, for fevers, and especially to increase the immune system response for viral infections. The dried berries are also used as a food by local Chumash people. The blossoms can also be consumed as a tea for PMS. 

Elderberry is known as the music tree by the Chumash and other tribes. They use it to make clapper sticks and flutes/whistles. "Elderberry is the music tree, our heartbeat."
Cecilia Garcia (Chumash).

For Additional Information About this Plant

Key to Native Plant Symbols 

Plant Key.jpg
Screen Shot 2020-10-19 at 3.40.17 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-10-19 at 6.34.18 PM.png

Native Plant Information provided by

bottom of page