Remember the little man-like bud perched on his branch in late April? Today we’re going to be honoring his growth. Perhaps having a coming-of-age celebration for him. We’re even going to be boldly announcing both his nickname and Latin baptismal name.
But first, a second picture of his flowering a few weeks ago. Doesn’t it feel like we’re sitting together slowly turning the pages of his family photo album? Let’s see how Junior has grown!
Yes, there he was in early May in purple seed-like glory. (Why are we calling him a male? He may be a she. Maybe, as a plant, he’s both. Perhaps a botanist could enlighten us. But for the time present, let’s stick with the male metaphor. Get it? Stick? Pun intended!)
You can smell the most heavenly scent beneath the blossoms. Oh wondrous! One can feel downright giddy on the scent of wildflowers wafting their perfume through the woods. One wants to capture the fragrance in a bottle and spray it on during nights when the full moon shines over the Huron Bay. That’s how beautiful the fragrance is.
OK, are we ready for the scientific name? Pen handy? Write this down and memorize: Sambucus cadandensis. That’s Latin for you. In modern-day English we call this the American Elder. Or Elderberry. Or Common Elder. The Audubon’s Field Guide to North American trees describes it in less romantic terms. Sturdier terms. It says: Large shrub or small tree with irregular crown of few, stout, spreading branches, clusters of white flowers, and many small black or purple berries. It goes on to describe height, diameter, leaves, bark, twigs, fruit, habitat and range.
I am sorry we don’t have a berry photo to share. Last August I wasn’t thinking of the tree as part of a year-round photo album. Instead, let’s zoom out so we can view a family of elderberry flowers enjoying a Tuesday gray afternoon in the north woods of Michigan.
Like all of us, elderberry trees do grow old and pass on. I wasn’t sure how to say that delicately. But, our luck, the several elderberry trees on our property have blossomed in their glory before toppling over into the soil to become memories for those of us who loved their fragrance, their berries, their blossoms. I am hoping this one won’t die, but as the area succumbs to drought more regularly, the swamp-loving roots dry up and…well, you can witness what happens:
The book says: This common, widespread shrub spouts from roots. Elderberries are used for making jelly, preserves, pie and wine. Birds and mammals of many species also feed on the berries. The bark, leaves and flowers have served as home remedies.
Yep. I know that’s true, especially the part about birds eating the berries. We’ve had a race for the elderberries every year and the birds always win! They’re flitting around the berries half-drunk in the sun before I remember that they’re ripe and sweet and ready to make into some jam. Jam sounds good, doesn’t it?
Finally, are you ready for the tree, the whole tree and nothing but the tree? Here it is! American Elder or Elderberry in her spring glory!