This week we have been making elderflower cordial and its made me think about the underappreciated Elder tree. We have lots of elder trees on our smallholding and we make maximum use of their flowers and berries in season. There are so many uses for the flowers, berries and wood too it’s baffling that these trees are not more popular.
I love trees; common trees, unusual trees and even vanishingly rare trees. We have undertaken an extensive planting scheme here and have over 50 tree species.
That said when we moved in our neglected garden had many “volunteer” (self seeded) elder trees in it.
It’s interesting to note that Elder trees especially volunteer elder trees are said to have a protective influence over a home.
Many also believe that the scent of elder leaves when bruised is an effective fly repellent.
An oddity of the elder is that the leaves and uncooked berries can be mildly toxic leading to, for example, upset stomachs but the cooked berries are fine in jam.
Both the flowers and the leaves are reputed to have medicinal benefits against coughs, colds and sore throats. Some suggest elderflower tea but I think elderberry port is better (purely medicinal of course)!
I wonder if the reputation of the elder as a “weed tree” is due to its ability to self seed, its weak timber or the old beliefs around it? Perhaps simply many find it unattractive but it’s a phenomenally useful small tree. Can you think of another that you can use the leaves, the flowers, the fruit?
Even the trunks were traditionally harvested to make pipes!
The elder is a wonderful nectar bearer for pollinators and the fruit are loved by birds and small mammals.
I’ve noticed larger mammals such as badgers and rabbits so its worth having just for its contribution to a thriving ecology.
We’ve made a number of videos around this useful tree covering how to recognise the Elder tree and use its flowers in wine, “champagne” and cordial . Here are a selection: