Although red elderberry is fairly common in Finland as far north as Oulu, it is not a native species but was imported from central Europe hundreds of years ago. During the last hundred years it has escaped from gardens and become a normal feature of the landscape.
The species favours fertile spots. The leaves smell unpleasant when touched, but in many other ways this is an attractive shrub. The leaves flush reddish brown from red-violet buds in spring, following the lead of the flower buds. Creamy conical flower clusters decorate the shrub in early summer and are followed in autumn by shiny red berries, which taste unpleasant and are mildly poisonous for humans. However, birds like them and spread the seeds, though red elderberry is seldom found in modern gardens. Being fast-growing, it makes a good protective hedge but as an individual specimen it eventually takes on an attractive arching habit, if snow doesn’t snap the branches. It recovers quickly from trimming and removal of damaged branches.