Plant Profile  – Native Elderberry

The white flowers are tiny, but enchanting in their delicacy.

Also known as:

  • Sambucus australasica
  • Native Elderberry
  • Yellow Elderberry
  • Native Elder
Berries start green and are a bright orange yellow when ripe.

Growing conditions:

  • Part shade/Shade
  • Grows in most soils
  • Prefers a moist location
Unripe Elderberries


  • Fresh seed in autumn subtropics/tropics
  • Will need a cold frame in cooler climates
This tree has lovely wavy leaves and an attractive branching habit. In most cases it won’t exceed four metres tall.

Despite its preference for moist soil, this plant has been one of my drought survivors. It recovers quickly from wilt making it easy to judge when it has reached its point of tolerance. That tolerance was much higher than I expected or feared.

Ripe berries have a tendency to drop at the slightest touch so I place a jar over them before I try to pick them. Make sure you remove all stalks from the harvest as many plants in this genus have stalks with low levels of toxicity.

Its natural distribution goes some way to explain its hardiness. It’s found along the East Coast regions of Australia from the Tropics in North Queensland all the way South to the Cool Temperate climate of Tasmania. It will tolerate many different conditions and is even tolerant of air pollution. It’s surprising then that it is not tolerant of salt spray.

Ripe native elderberries. Ready to harvest for seed, eating or using in kitchen delights.

The berries are edible and can be eaten straight from the tree. Ours are pleasantly tart, some trees produce sweet or bitter fruit. Culinary uses align with its European cousin. The berries can be used to make wines, cordials, jams, dessert crumbles, pies and even syrups said to lessen length and intensity of cold and flu symptoms. The results will be slightly different from the plump purple berries used in other parts of the world. Likewise the flowers can be used to make elderflower recipes. I plan to experiment with mine as soon as the harvest period is over which will likely be in July. Until then I will harvest and freeze the berries.

The orange berries contrast pleasingly with the lush green foliage.

I bought my Native Elderberry from Lamington Native Nursery which is a lovely little nursery in Cainbable near Canungra.  Every plant I have purchased from there has survived and thrived. I try to support local businesses as much as possible, but this nursery is so good it’s easy to support it. I only wish that I could make the drive to them more often!

The lovely lady who runs the nursery advised that they tend to self seed and cautioned me to consider where I planted it. It is now situated on the shady end of one of my contour banks and is thriving. Thriving despite the fact that I once accidentally pulled it out when my son distracted me as I was weeding. With some seaweed emulsion and regular watering it is as good as new. Thank goodness! Such a lovely tree!

Wishing you fruitful harvests,

Jane grows garden rooms

PS This plant is on my Ten Australian Bush Food Plants for Your Garden list. Click here to read the full article.

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