We are lucky to have elderberry growing all around us. We found them everywhere after taking a Weed Walk class by Green Dean of Eat The Weeds. Wouldn’t have really recognized them before that. Apparently people get elderberry confused with water hemlock, which is extremely poisonous. After Dean showed us the two I couldn’t really see how they could be confused with each other, but I suppose if you aren’t that plant savvy it might be an easy thing to mix up. The plants look completely different to me.
However, the flower heads and berries look vaguely alike if you don’t look at the leaves or the stalks. Here’s a not-so-great picture of water hemlock I took from my phone while Honey and I were out walking. The stalks and leaves are completely different, but this shows the similarity of the flowers. Water hemlock stalks are not woody and they have purple areas on them. The leaves are less smooth and the veins are very pronounced with jagged edges, where elderberry has smoother leaves & veins and are a bit more lanceolate in shape. Water hemlock leaves seem a bit more ovate in shape to me.
Water Hemlock is super poisonous. Please take the time to know the difference between the two plants. Dean told a tale of two boys who made a flute out of a hemlock stalk and just putting the dried stalk to their mouths they both died from it before anyone really knew what had happened.
A VERY important thing to understand if you are going to forage for wild foods ~ KNOW YOUR PLANTS WELL!!! Know the subtle differences between look-a-likes. It could be the difference between life and death.
Ok, back to our gardening….
While we were around our neighborhood checking for ripe elderberries, we took some cuttings and brought them home to root. If you saw the pictures I posted to my Facebook page then you’ve already seen these two that I took with my phone:
This first one, above, is right after bringing the cuttings home and placing them in water.
The 2nd one, below, is a week or so later after they sprouted leaves before they even grew any roots.
Now they are planted in our homemade compost soil. I will be putting a couple of these out in our yard, but keeping some in the bucket as well, since we don’t plan on living here forever. I definitely want to have some established to take with us some day.
Elderberries are extremely easy to start from cuttings. All I did was put the sticks in water and refreshed it every day with filtered water.
I’m going to start up an Herb of the Month series, where each month I’ll be doing an in depth study of a featured herb including all the different ways to use each one. One of my goals is to become a Master Herbalist, but cannot yet swing for an official course. So I must learn on my own for a while. 🙂
This post is shared on: