Another magical tree of the Scottish Highlands, the elder has just come into bloom in Strathspey.
Elder is represented by letter ‘R’ in the Scottish Gaelic tree alphabet. ‘R’ is for RUIS [Roosh], Elder, droman, eller, borral, boortree, bountree, Sambucus nigra.
Here’s a tune I composed for this tree!
From The Woods, released March 21, 2020
Hamish Napier – F flute
Ross Ainslie – Small pipes in C
James Lindsay – bass
Steve Byrnes – guitar, drums
The pithy cores of elder branches were hollowed out to make a ‘bountry-gun’, a child’s peashooter.
The pale, hard and easily polished wood was used to make chanters and whistles at one time.
Highlanders planted elder near their house to keep the devil at bay, while burning it was thought to summon him.
The wood spits and screams on the fire.
The strong smelling leaves seem to deter flies and so were placed around the home for reasons of hygiene.
Elder has compound leaves divided into five to seven elegant leaflets.
The dark autumn elder berries are tasty, as are elderflower champagne and cordial.
Elder is most commonly found at woodland edges and on grasslands.
Check out Trees for Life‘s brilliant website for more on elder.