The American (Sambucus canadensis) and the European (S. nigra) elderberry are closely related species in the Adoxaceae [also placed in Caprifoliaceae and Sambucaceae (USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program, 2008)] that, although separated in the USDA-ARS National Genetic Resources Program (2008), are sometimes combined as two subspecies of S. nigra (Bolli, 1994). Although they have naturalized throughout much of the world, Sambucus species are predominantly native to the northern hemisphere. Their seeds are spread rapidly by birds to colonize forest edges and disturbed areas along roads and railroad lines. Although the focus of this research is on these species as fruit crops, they are popular ornamentals, particularly S. nigra, displaying a range of foliage colors as well as cut-leaf forms. The bark, roots, stems, flowers, and fruit of both species historically have been used by native people as medicine (Moerman, 1998) and this aspect of these species recently has received significant attention (Thomas et al., 2008).
Commercial elderberry production is scattered across Denmark, Italy, Hungary, and Austria in Europe and in central Chile. Historically, Oregon was a major producer in the United States, but production has rapidly declined in the past few years. However, wild harvested fruit is sold commercially in a number of areas, particularly the midwestern United States. Although the European industry primarily relies on S. nigra genotypes and the United States on S. canadensis genotypes, commercial production practices are similar. The morphological and reproductive characteristics of these species are similar; however, S. nigra tends to be a single or few trunked large shrub/small tree, whereas S. canadensis can have many stems and can aggressively spread by underground rhizomes. The fruit chemistry of the two species is different, most notably in that the major anthocyanins of S. canadensis are acylated (Lee and Finn, 2007). Although all processed elderberry samples that have been tested as a juice, concentrate, natural colorant, and as dietary supplements in the literature were produced from S. nigra, S. canadensis should be a better choice as a result of its acylated anthocyanins.
Most of the S. canadensis cultivars were developed decades ago either at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station or at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Nova Scotia (e.g., ‘Adams I’, ‘Adams II’, ‘Johns’, ‘York’, ‘Nova’) (Table 1). Although the Danish developed the S. nigra cultivars Allesø, Korsør, Sambu, and Sampo (Kaack, 1989, 1997), the origin of ‘Haschberg’, the main S. nigra cultivar grown in Europe, is uncertain.
Origin of Sambucus canadensis and S. nigra genotypes and where they were in replicated trial among locations at the Missouri State University–Mountain Grove, MO, the University of Missouri Southwest Center, Mt. Vernon, MO, and the USDA-ARS Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR.
Most of the horticultural literature on American elderberry is geared toward production practices and was published in the mid-20th century (Craig, 1978; Ritter, 1958; Ritter and McKee, 1964; Skirvin and Otterbacher, 1977; Way, 1957, 1967, 1981). To our knowledge, other than Waźbińska et al. (2004), who evaluated S. nigra production on two soils at the same location, no studies have been carried out to examine genotype × environment (G × E) interactions or seasonal effects or that compared the two species for horticultural characteristics. The main objective of this study was to determine the G × E interaction for yield and phenological traits for four S. canadensis genotypes (‘Adams II’, ‘Gordon B’, ‘Johns’, and Netzer) grown at three locations, two in Missouri and one in Oregon. Separately, each state had secondary interests. In Missouri, a replicated comparison of a large number of genotypes was important to help determine which selections of S. canadensis should be advanced in their development program. In Oregon, because it is possible to grow S. nigra, the primary commercial European species, it was of interest to see how cultivars of S. nigra compared with those of S. canadensis.
Lee, J. & Finn, C.E. 2007 Anthocyanins and other polyphenolics in American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) and European elderberry (S. nigra) cultivars J. Sci. Food Agr. 87 2665 2675
Ritter, C.M. 1958 Responses of cultivated elderberry varieties to fertilizer and mulch treatments. Progress Report 195 Pennsylvania State Univ. Agr. Expt. Sta
Thomas, A.L. & Byers, P.L. 2000 Multi-locational elderberry cultivar and management study Proc. Missouri Small Fruit Conf 20 37 40 Southwest Missouri State Univ Springfield, MO
Thomas, A.L., Byers, P.L., Finn, C.E., Chen, Y.C., Rottinghaus, G.E., Malone, A.M. & Applequist, W.L. 2008 Occurrence of rutin and chlorogenic acid in elderberry leaf, flower, and stem in response to genotype, environment and season Acta Hort. 765 197 206
USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program 2008 Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) [online database] National Germplasm Resources Laboratory Beltsville, MD 12 Mar. 2008 <http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/tax_search.pl>.
Way, R.D. 1981 Elderberry culture in New York State New York's Food and Life Sciences Bull. No. 91. New York State Agr. Expt. Sta Geneva, NY
Waźbińska, J., Puczel, U. & Senderowska, J. 2004 Yield in elderberry cultivars grown on two different soils in 1997–2003 J. Fruit Orn. Plant Res. 12 175 181