Sambucus cerulea is a large, deciduous shrub, which can grow to be 9 metres (30 ft) in height and 6 metres (20 ft) in width. It is distinguishable from other elderberries by the glaucous powder coating on its bluish-black berries. It normally grows rather wildly from several stems, which can be heavily pruned (or even cut to the ground) during winter dormancy. The leaves are hairless, strongly pointed and sharp-toothed. They are elliptical to lanceolate, and the blade extends unequally on the stalk at the base. The fruits given are berry-like drupes. They are juicy, round, and approximately 4–6 mm in diameter. They are bluish-black appearing as a pale powdery blue colour. Each fruit contains 3 to 5 small seed-like stones, each enclosing a single seed. The fruits of blue elderberry are edible raw, cooked or used in preserves. This is the most well-tasting of the North American elders, even though it is full of small seeds. The berries are rather sweet and juicy. They can however cause nausea if eaten raw, but ripe berries are edible when cooked. Berries can be used in portlike wine, jams, and pies. They should always be cooked and are used primarily in wines and syrups. The fruit is usually dried before being used. Some caution is advised, see the notes below on toxicity. The flowers are edible raw or cooked, and are said to be pleasant and refreshing raw. A pleasant tea can be made from the dried flowers. The leaves, green fruits and stems of members of this genus are poisonous. The stems, bark, leaves and roots contain cyanide-producing glycosides, and are therefore poisonous, especially when fresh. The fruit of this species has been known to cause stomach upsets. Any toxin the fruit might contain is considered to be of low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked.
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