This next picture is of one leaf, comprising and showing the arrangement of five leaflets. That is important to understand because a single leaflet or leaf, that is this shape would not indicate an Elder, each leaf is composed of five leaflets, sometimes seven and rarely nine.
A fresh stem is usually covered in small pale warts, these are called lenticels. They are sometimes described as breathing pores and allow the tree to exchange gasses.
The Elder is a short lived tree, not more than about 60 years. It is also quite small and shrub like. I have read that it can attain a height of twenty feet or more but it is usually smaller than that.
Legend has it that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an Elder tree. I think that this is unlikely, for hanging you really need a tree that is taller than you with sturdy horizontal branches, like an Oak or a Chestnut. It is more likely that this defamation by association is the work of the Christian Church in the battle against Paganism because the Elder once held great spiritual importance.
You wouldn’t have much luck, hanging yourself in one of these.
The Elder is a valuable wildlife plant. It provides shelter for birds and forage for deer. Many small mammals (including Dormice) eat both the flowers and the fruit. It is a larval food plant for several British moths including the White Spotted Pug, Swallowtail, Dot Moth and Buff Ermine. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for many insects and birds also eat the fruit.
Despite it’s reputation for Elderflower tea and fritters and Elderberry wine all of the green parts and the fruit are mildly poisonous to us. The fruit needs to be cooked before eating.
This tree is a member of the same family as the diminutive, green wildflower, Town Hall Clock (The Adoxaceae)
Species: Sambucus Nigra