The Stunning Elderflower at Vaucluse House

The small white objects in the foreground are the flowers of the Elderflower with the Vaucluse House Stable son the far right.

The beautiful elderflower by the stables at Vaucluse House. Photo Cameron Allan © Sydney Living Musuems

One of the most stunning plants growing at Vaucluse House today is elderflower. This versatile plant has a long history in colonial gardens.

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) is a soft-leaved flowering plant from Europe. It is a hardy plant that can grow in many different soil types, including wet soils. It likes full exposure to the sun, but can grow in partial shade. It was often planted in herb gardens in the nineteenth century, but can also be used as a feature plant. Fragrant white flowers bloom in clusters about 30cm wide. These are then followed by the growth of elderberries. In total the plant can grow up to 3-4 metres tall.

Elderflower has a long history in European folklore. It was thought to be bad luck if the plant was cut down. It was also thought to have protective qualities and could ward off snakes.

Elderflower was often used to make cordial in the nineteenth century. The head of the elderflower was mixed with lemon & sugar, then strained through muslin cloth and bottled for two weeks. The result is a delicate elderflower-flavoured cordial.1 The plant also has a medicinal use. It was used as a topical ointment to treat skin conditions & bruises. It could also heal sore throats by reducing the swelling of mucous.

Because of the large cluster of fragrant flowers they produce, elderflower is an excellent source of nectar for butterflies and bees. They can be maintained and shaped beautifully, like the stunning elderflower on display in the herb garden at Vaucluse House.

the petite white flowers of the Elderflower at Vaucluse House

A cluster of fragrant white elderflowers at Vaucluse House.

Photo Cameron Allan © Sydney Living Museums.

the petite white flowers of the elderberry

Elderflowers blossoming at Vaucluse House.

Photo Cameron Allan © Sydney Living Museums.

About the author

Cameron Allan, A Visitor Interpretation Officer at Sydney Living Museums in his uniform which is a white business shirt and he is in front of a book display at the Vaucluse House Shop

Cameron Allan

Visitor & Interpretation Officer

Cameron is a Visitor & Interpretation Officer at Sydney Living Museums.