We are now officially in elderflower season, which means it’s time to make elderflower champagne, cordial, jelly, whatever takes your fancy! Identifying this plant is simple when you know what you are looking for. If you’ve never picked elderflowers before, here’s how to identify them.
Elderflowers have a ‘spray’ of flowers. I say spray because they look like they are spraying out of the stem rather than growing in a neat, compact bunch.
Elderflowers have a light creamy / pale yellow colour. The pollen gives the flowers their smell and colour.
Avoid picking elderflower with a slightly brown appearance because it won’t be as fragrant…or tasty.
The leaves have a serrated edge and are commonly found in clusters of 5.
Growing from a bush
Elderflowers grow from bushes, not the ground.
Over time, these bushes can grow very large and look tree-like. The trunk will be not be visible and you can’t see branches (like you would find on a tree) because the elderflowers grow from the trunk. Use the other information on this page to help you identify the correct plant.
One of the most distinctive things about elderflowers is the smell: floral, creamy and ‘Summery’. Quite often you can smell the scent as you get closer towards the plants. Elderflowers should not smell like wee, musty or damp. If they do, find fresher smelling blooms.
Elderflowers have slender, pale green stalks that break into delicate ‘florets’ with flowers growing at the end.
You will often find black fly on the stems and flowers of elderflower plants, especially once they have flowered.
Elderflower buds (pre bloom)
Before elderflower has bloomed, the flowers are tight buds. They start off green and as they become larger, turn a more creamy colour before flowering.
Elderflower can be confused with…
The following plants are those often confused with elderflower. From a distance they may look like elderflower but close up there are some key differences. These plants are not elderflower.
The flowers are larger, paler and more tightly packed than elderflowers. Note the brown anthers.
Grows from the ground, white flowers, no visible pollen and there are no leaves near the flowers.
Very poisonous, do not eat. Grows from the ground and has tiny white flowers that grow in a radial pattern.
Please note: never eat something if you cannot identify. Do your research. If using illustrated books, look for reputable photos online to make sure you are definitely picking the correct plant. If in doubt, don’t eat it.