Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Now Blooming on the Trail......

As spring has been progressing, I have been posting what is currently in bloom on the Chehalis Western Trail in Olympia, Washington.

You can call me the trail eye-witness reporter!

The Red Elderberry is currently the star bloomer with its lacy foliage, large white flower clusters.

The Red Elderberry is a showy large deciduous shrub or small tree of the Honeysuckle family that grows 10-20 feet tall with a broad arching form. Older specimens have large, multiple trunks with coarse bark. Red elderberry begins growth early in spring and produces abundant, small, creamy white flowers in large, conical or pyramidal shaped clusters between April and July. Large clusters of small, bright red, fleshy berries appear in summer.

This deciduous shrub is very common west of the Cascades. Large attractive clusters of red berries are very popular with the birds, but may be toxic to humans when eaten raw. When ripe however they can be cooked and made into processed products, or fermented into wine. The rest of the plant (flowers, leaves, seeds, roots) is toxic as it contains cyanide-producing glycosides.

The flowers have a rather unpleasant, skunk smell. Butterflies enjoy the nectar of the flowers, while birds will feast on the ripe berries.

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