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Common Name:

Mexican Elder

Scientific Name:

Sambucus mexicana

Family Name:

Caprifoliaceae

Description:

Mexican Elder is a West Texas native that reaches the size of a small tree. The pinnately compound leaves form a dense spreading canopy and the trunk is composed of thick gnarled branches, giving the effect of a large bonsai. This gnome-home look accounts for its popularity despite being rather short-lived. While evergreen or semi-evergreen in winter the plant may be drought deciduous. Creamy white flowers occur in late winter or early spring and are followed by blue-black berries that tend to have a cathartic effect on birds.

Plant Habit or Use:

Shrub, large shrub, tree, small tree

Exposure:

sun, partial sun

Flower Color:

Cyme-like clusters of creamy white flowers, peak late winter to early spring sporadically in summer

Blooming Period:

Spring, summer, winter

Fruit Characteristics:

Blue-black berries, early summer to fall

Height:

15 ft to 20 ft, rarely 30 ft

Width:

20 ft to 25 ft

Earth–Kind® Index:

  • Heat Tolerance: Medium Heat Tolerance
  • Water Requirements: Medium Water Use
  • Soil Requirements: Low Soil Requirements
  • Pest Tolerance: High Pest Resistance
  • Fertility Requirements: Low Fertility Requirements
Explanation of the Earth–Kind® Index breakdown

Firewise Index

8.00
Explanation of the Firewise Index numerical value

USDA Hardiness Zones:

8, 9, 10, 11

Regions that intersect these hardiness zones:
Region A - Panhandle and High Plains Region B - North and Central Texas Region C - Northeast and East Texas Region D - West Texas Region E - Upper Rio Grande Region F - Hill Country and Central Coast Region G - Southeast Texas Region H - Rio Grande Valley
Click image for enlarged map of USDA Hardiness Zones

Additional Comments:

Tolerates a variety of soils as long as drainage is not poor; heat, drought, soil salt tolerant; slow fall acclimation predisposes plants grown in mesic environments to cold damage. Brittle branches, aphid infestations, tendency to sucker, and volunteer seedlings can all be drawbacks to its use.
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A Special Note about Cool Season Annuals

Cool season annuals typically are planted in the fall or early winter and flower in early spring under moderate temperatures. This group of plant materials includes: pansies, snapdragons, violas, dianthus, flowering cabbage/kale, etc. Because cool season annuals flower in the spring when conditions are mild, most have limited heat tolerance.

As a result cool season annuals do not receive a high Earth–Kind® index despite their outstanding landscape qualities.