elderberry

Among the most conspicuous flowers of the season are the umbels of the elderberry (Sambucus canadensis).  One of the most abundant local plant species, elderberries prefer open well lighted places, though they will grow within woodlands.  Besides providing habitat for a variety of animals, elderberry is important as their food source.  Caterpillars and a host of other insects feed on their foliage and the berries produced from mid-summer through fall are extremely valuable for local and migrating birds.

The leaves and stems are quite poisonous to humans.  The flowers, however, may be dipped in batter and fried and the berries are an excellent source for wine and jelly. Elderberries have also provided a source of entertainment for children over the years.  The stems have a soft pith core that can be removed to yield a hollow tube.  If another twig is whittled to fit in the tube and a chinaberry or cork is wedged in the other end, a popgun results!

Old timers in south Louisiana made use of elderberry stems by removing the pith from a two inch section, drilling a hole near the base and inserting a hollow reed.  Voila!  A natural smoking pipe.