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Growing Elderberries from cuttings

 
Dan Boone
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So I was driving down my road today when I saw the utility crew cutting brush under the powerlines. They had three guys with backpack sprayers out spraying toxic gick on the underbrush. I realized when I saw them that they were about 200 yards away from reaching the roadside elderberry patch that I found last summer -- the only local elderberries I have seen.

I picked some elderberries last year from that patch that I dried in my dehydrator and have been scattering all over my property. But growing elderberries from seed is a chancy business. I normally wouldn't consider taking cuttings from "public" bushes like this, but with the poison squad just minutes away, I decided to pull in and cut some cuttings.

Oklahoma's cooperative extension service has this to say about propagating elderberry from cuttings:

Elderberries can be propagated by hardwood cuttings. In early spring before budbreak, take 10- to 12-inch cuttings from live portions of the previous season’s growth and plant them 10 to 12 inches apart in rows, leaving the top bud exposed.

Firm soil around cuttings and water as needed to retain a moist medium for rooting. Cuttings can be transplanted early the next spring.


As you can see from the photo below, I'm a little late for "before budbreak". But needs must when the devil drives. These elderberry plants were doomed:



I popped them in a zip-loc freezer bag with a quarter cup of water and a half a teaspoon of rooting hormone. My cuttings are shorter than the 10-12 inches recommended by the cooperative extension service; I was in a hurry and going by a half-remembered internet search that told me to take "two sets of buds" on elderberry cuttings. But tomorrow I'll still plant them with the upper buds exposed and hope for the best!
 
Dillon Nichols
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Ack, toxic gick! Good thing you spotted them, hopefully the cuttings take! Also, hopefully the patch survives...

Are these blue elderberries?


I've got a few elderberry cuttings that started in similar condition; LOTS of new foliage but no sign of roots yet. Fingers crossed.


Dan Boone wrote:I normally wouldn't consider taking cuttings from "public" bushes like this

How come? I wouldn't think twice about it, in small quantities... Of course if *everyone* took a few cuttings without considering whether the plant can spare a branch, the best plants would be quickly wiped out... but I don't see any risk of that in my area. I'd think that the likely benefit to the species in terms of spread from propagated plants would outweigh the short-term detrimental impact of a few clippings.
 
Dan Boone
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Dillon Nichols wrote:Are these blue elderberries?


Going by the pictures, I do not think so. The blue are a west coast species according to Wikipedia. I believe mine are the Canadensis common in eastern North America. At least, the pictures look like what I saw last summer.


Dillon Nichols wrote:
Dan Boone wrote:I normally wouldn't consider taking cuttings from "public" bushes like this

How come? I wouldn't think twice about it, in small quantities... Of course if *everyone* took a few cuttings without considering whether the plant can spare a branch, the best plants would be quickly wiped out... but I don't see any risk of that in my area. I'd think that the likely benefit to the species in terms of spread from propagated plants would outweigh the short-term detrimental impact of a few clippings.


Well, I consider roadside bushes a sort of community property. If I take cuttings, what does that do to a berry harvest one of my neighbors might be expecting to rely on? I was willing to try to propagate from seed until I saw the three men with spray tanks on their backs.

To be honest I hadn't seriously considered taking cuttings; maybe it was a good idea all along. But in the event, I made a spur-of-the-moment snap decision, which I do not regret. I only hope I can get some roots going!
 
Dillon Nichols
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Elderberry seems to be an interesting one as far as classification goes; I've seen the blue(cerulea) sometimes classed as a species, and sometimes considered a subspecies of the black (Sambucus Nigra), and apparently the same goes for the Canadensis you have... Certainly the cuttings you've got look extremely similar to my Sambucus Nigra cuttings.

The red(Sambucus racemosa) is very common in my area, but I've seen exactly one wild blue elderberry ever. It's a bit late in the season here, but I'll be trying to get some cuttings from it in a couple days, since I'll be somewhat nearby.

I've read that the otherwise toxic red can be consumed safely if you remove the seeds, but I haven't tried it yet...

Dan Boone wrote:Well, I consider roadside bushes a sort of community property. If I take cuttings, what does that do to a berry harvest one of my neighbors might be expecting to rely on?

I agree entirely that it's community property, but I suppose I would err in the direction of using it rather than not, because in my unscientific experience the odds are it would just go unused otherwise! While I wouldn't want to take more than a fair share, <2% of a healthy plant seems a very reasonable quantity in the apparent absence of major resource competition!

I also do my best to take cuttings that would otherwise be a problem; crossed branches, ones that will be in the way of traffic, etc...
 
Landon Sunrich
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus_canadensis

I've noticed this. I know the red ones are freaking perfect if you are a boating culture. The berries like roe the pithy young centers for floats. Hard wood that is decomposed by velvet foot. It's a super shrub.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Good take Dan, especially since the plants were doomed. To help these cuttings sprout roots I would do some scrapes through the bark and dust with root hormone just before planting. A bell ( glass jar or plastic mini green house) over each or all will help with the root formation also. I see no problem with taking cuttings from wild plants, which these are since they were growing in a road right of way, and propagating them. I've even taken some cuttings from plants that were growing in State and National parks, just asked the rangers if it would be alright to get a cutting of the plant I desired, they usually said it would be ok to take one, if it wasn't then I didn't. One other way to get cuttings from these places is to find out when they are going to do maintenance on the trails, they usually prune back plants so the trail is clear for hikers and at that time you can, by volunteering to help, get some very nice cuttings.
 
Roger Taylor
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I've grown elderberry from cuttings from public trees. I just snipped off pieces of wood similar to above, dipped in rooting hormone, stuck in pots of used potting soil, and watered regularly. All rooted and still sitting in the pots - I've since realised I have elderberry all over the place.
 
Akiva Silver
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Elderberries are pretty easy from cuttings. I don't use any hormone on them. I just stick them into a bed that is mostly sand. I've had good results with one node of buds on the top. There's no need to have a second node of buds buried.
 
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