Douglas Justice took today’s Botany Photo of the Day in our David C. Lam Asian Garden. He also provided the associated entry.
Plants in the Adoxaceae (moschatel family) are commonly recognized by the peculiar, often rank emanation that their tissues produce. The full effect is best conjured by bruising or merely brushing by leaves or stems, although temperature and season seem to affect the strength of the aroma. Genera familiar to gardeners are Sambucus (elderberry) and Viburnum. B.C. natives include one species of viburnum, three elderberries, and the diminutive moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina). Both Sambucus and Viburnum were until recently classified in the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle family).
Red elderberry is an important early fruiting crop for local bird species. In May, the branch terminals produce pyramidal clusters of creamy white flowers that are quickly followed by glossy red berries (as seen here, photographed earlier this week from the Greenheart Canopy Walkway). Red elder is a common lowland species, tolerant of shade, winter flooding, and summer drought. The somewhat unmanageable scientific name is logical once parsed: Sambucus racemosa subsp. racemosa is the red elder of Europe (with flowers in racemes); S. racemosa subsp. pubens is the hairier-leafed North American version; and the tall or tree-like (i.e., arborescent) Pacific coastal variant is var. arborescens. The black-fruited variant found in the mountains of western North America is var. melanocarpa.