Grandmother Elderberry

A native grass in early morning light:
A native bunch grass

I spent a few summers in Montana.   One summer I picked many pounds of elderberries--Sambucus mexicana aka Sambucus caerulea aka Mexican Elderberry--from shrubs on the sides of highways, to cook a jelly so deeply purple as to be nearly black--if you held up a jar to the sun, you saw a  halo of violet around a column of midnight.  Beautiful stuff.  Best jelly I ever made--actually the only jelly I've ever made--also the best jelly I ever tasted--a complex fruit flavor making sweetness irrelevant.   A five gallon bucket crammed full of berries made three pints of jelly.  I still remember that jewel-like jelly with wonder. 

Apparently the same plant is also native to my neighborhood.  I've found several on my walks.  It's range extends from British Columbia, east  to Montana, and south to nearly Baja California. 

Early this morning, after taking care of the dogs, I trotted down the road to get a couple shots of the local Elderberry population before today's heat traps me indoors.  The oak tree's new acorns are tiny, the largest is size of my little fingernail:
Baby Acorns Quercus agrifolia

Next to the oak, a sapling Elderberry grows.  The new fruits have just developed  their juvenile powdering.  They will darken  over the summer to a blue-purple:
Sambucus mexicana

The native Marah macrocarpus are starting to die back.  Common name 'Old Man Of The Earth'--the vine grows from a huge tuber that dug up, resembles a limbless corpse (yeah, kind of yeech).  This one has climbed up a so-called "California" Pepper, that invasive yet romantic tree from Argentina, Schinus molle:
Dead Man Vine

The Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, are forming berries of their own:
Toyon new berries
The California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) still looks lively because of our good winter rain and long cool spring, though it will turn to its dry season colors of rust and grey very soon:
Erigerion in July

Grandmother Elderberry lives a  little farther down the  road.  She's been whacked and thwacked and chopped  and hacked over the decades by county crews to keep her out of the road, by Edison to keep her out of their power lines, and by falling Eucalypts, who have grazed her and topped  her.
Sambucus mexicana
Sambucus mexicana

Scarred  and mutilated.  Bark greyed, and thickened, and fissured, still she grows:
Elderberry Sambucus mexicana 

Grandmother Elderberry is like an old lady, crinkled and wrinkled, bent, hunched.  You pity her until you see the sparkle in her bright eyes, and realize she doesn't pity herself one bit.   So if you pity her, you are  mistaken in thinking she wants or needs your pity.  Quite mistaken.  She endures.  Proudly.


Popular Posts