elderberry. It just seemed to appear out of nowhere one year and kept growing. It took me some time to learn what it was. The milk thistle is the lovely plant with the milky marking in the leaves and the purple thorn flowers. It is reputed to have medicinal uses. It is also edible. Recipes for using both milk thistle and elderberries can be found in Edible and Useful Plants of California.
Elderberry has been around since the the Stone Age, according to Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, my favorite herb reference. Man has used the berries and flowers for healing, and the branches to make an ancient Greek stringed instrument called the sambuke. Most people today use the berries for making wine or jelly. Both cosmetics and dyes are also made from elderberry flowers or leaves. Elderberry roots, leaves and stems can release cyanide, so one needs to be careful when using this plant. Berries are best consumed cooked.
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Have you seen elderberry trees in wild places or along the roadsides? Have you ever used the berries?