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Reply To: Herbal gardening 

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Hi Aleah,

I can imagine this was frustrating to find out when you arrived home, but fear not, the black lace cultivar of Sambucus nigra can still be used in the same way as the true Sambucus nigra. There are some slight differences however, the variety that you bought tends to have pinkish flowers and a more lemony scent. Therefore the flowers will have a slightly different taste profile (if you were planning on making cordial, honey, syrup, wine etc.). This might also change the medicinal profile a tiny bit as well, due to a slight difference in aromatic oils, but as far as I have read and understand both the flowers and the berries of all of the cultivars of Sambucus nigra can be used interchangeably. The difference may be about the same as harvesting Sambucus nigra in the wild or from a plant that was grown in a garden.

This topic can be a compelling one. When it comes to elderberry species there are dozens of cultivars, the history there is quite interesting. Also out here on the east coast there is discussion around the fact that we now have naturally hybridized Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis, therefore we can’t be 100% sure that we are harvesting one or the other when we find one in the wild without doing genetic testing. However it is generally agreed that both species are similar enough in medicinal quality that it doesn’t make much difference.

When in a garden centre, general Latin names are not always the whole story of a plant. This is because many plants have been hybridized or bred to bring out certain visually beautiful details or colours, but it hasn’t changed the genetics quite enough to consider it a new subspecies or species entirely. As a result it becomes a cultivar of the same species. On the positive side however, if a plant isn’t deemed different enough from the original species to call it a new species, often it will still retain similar medicinal qualities.

I hope that this eases your mind a bit (or maybe it will bring up more curiosity!) and that you enjoy your beautiful new elderberry friend,
Happy gardening,

  • This reply was modified 3 years, 11 months ago by Charlie.