American elder closely resembles the European species, common elder (S. nigra), and is sometimes considered its subspecies. It is a fast-growing, luxuriant, multi-stemmed shrub producing root suckers, unlike the common elder. Leaves are large, with 5-9 leaflets, giving the shrub an exotic look. American elder flowers in August, after the common elder, with white, scented corymbs. The blue-black berries seldom have time to ripen in Finland. There is conflicting information about their edibility.