Elder is a deciduous shrub or small tree. The flowers are a creamy white and grow in a flattened cluster; they have pale yellow anthers.
The leaflets are oval, pointed and toothed. The clustered berries are black and shiny. Stems often shoot up vigorously from the base of the tree.
The plant is widespread in Ireland, growing in hedgerows and waste places where ground has been disturbed. It is often found near houses and rabbit warrens.
It was a custom in rural Ireland to scoop up clay from under an elder bush to soothe an aching tooth. Both the flowers and the fruit have been used in Ireland and many other countries to make drinks; the flowers make a refreshing summer soft drink and the fruit a traditional wine. The fruit must not be muddled up with the very similar berries of the much smaller Danewort (Sambucus ebulus), which are poisonous.
The flowers are in bloom in June and July.
Elder is common in Britain and in most of Europe. It is found in western Asia, West Africa and the Azores.