Elder is a shrub of woodland edge, hedgerows and grassland scrub, but also be found on waste ground, in cemeteries and even on rubbish tips. It prefers rich, fertilised soils, so is a common sight in urban areas and cultivated ground. Despite its reputation as a bad-smelling, opportunistic ‘weed’, Elder is regularly used as food – the autumn berries and spring flowers can both be eaten (the latter sometimes battered and fried) or the blossom can be used to make the popular elderflower cordial.
How to identify?
Elder can be recognised by its strong-smelling, compound leaves (each leaf is divided into five to seven leaflets), the white umbels (umbrella-like clusters) of flowers in the spring and summer, and the glossy black-purple berries during the autumn.