Friday, March 20, 2009

Mexican Elder Tree Care

Mexican Elder Tree (Sambucus mexicana)

You see these trees all around Las Cruces and Southern New Mexico. (Although they do grow in California, Arizona, Texas and the rest of the Southern states).They have bright green foliage early in spring, followed by small clusters of fragrant creamy off white flowers. They have gnarly bark and may look like a large bonsai.
These interesting looking trees provide quick shade and food for birds. They seem to look their best in the cooler months of the year especially when young.

These trees are easily trained into multi or single trunk specimen. You can prune at anytime of year to help keep it's desired shape. It is actually best to prune regularly to avoid cutting back large limbs. They can become quite dense so proper thining may also be neccessary.

They are susceptible to aphids, borers, and powdery mildew. You can prevent the insects with a systemic soil drench or insect spray labelled for aphids. You can treat the powdery mildew with an all purpose fungicide. Powdery mildew will usually occur if the tree has some shade or if there is a long period of very humid or rainy weather. (We should be so lucky.) The bark is quite "pulpy" and will absorb water. With this in mind it is best not to sprinkle or wet the bark so make sure your sprinking system does not hit the bark with its spray. If this happens the bark may begin to swell and peel off the tree.

Mexican Elder trees go "dormant" during the heat of the summer. This is when they look their worst. Feeding them late in spring or early summer is crucial to minimizing the effects of it's "summer dormancy". Don't give up, if they don't look quite healthy. The first few years this is normal, and the tree will look great upon the return of cooler weather. As they mature the trees seem to take the summer heat better.

Although these trees can produce quite a bit of litter, leaves, flower petals, and berries throughout the year, it's quick shade production and beauty make up for it.

Mexican Elder Tree Photo

Gary Guzman