How to Identify an Elderberry Bush


Elderberry thrives in USDA zones 4 and higher and is commonly grown domestically as a fruit crop and ornamental shrub. They also appear in the wild throughout North America. Whether you're looking at a plant in a nursery or encounter a bush while on a nature walk, learn the unique characteristics of the elderberry shrub to help you identify it should you wish to purchase it for home use or sample its tart berries.

Step 1

Review the bush's size. Elderberry shrubs can often reach the size of a small tree, measuring 12 to 20 feet tall when mature, according to the University of Florida.

Step 2

Sniff and measure the bush's flowers. Elderberry shrub blossom clusters usually have a diameter of 6 to 10 inches, according to Colorado State University, with a slightly sweet fragrance.

Step 3

Feel the bush's foliage. Elderberry leaves have a smooth, dark green top surface, with a light green underside. Both sides of the leaf have soft hairs lining the leaf's middle spine, according to the University of Florida. Elderberry leaves usually measure 5 to 9 inches in length.

Step 4

Inspect the bush's fruit, if present. Elderberry berries average 3/16 inch long and have a dark purple or almost black appearance. Colorado State University says the berries usually mature and ripen at the end of summer or early fall.

Step 5

Look at the bush's bark. The bark of the elderberry shrub has a smooth texture with a gray-brown hue, according to the University of Florida.


  • University of Florida: Elderberry
  • Colorado State University: Elderberry

Who Can Help

  • Cornell University: Growing Elderberries
Keywords: identify elderberry, elderberry characteristics, identifying elderberry plants

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.