By Wendy Langhans
How many different varieties of apples are there? A trip to the produce section of our local supermarkets only scratches the surface: Red Delicious, Gala, Rome Beauty, Braeburn, Gravenstein and Baldwin. According to the University of Illinois , there are over 7,500 cultivars (varieties) worldwide. (I know botanical term can be confusing, but a cultivar  is a variety of plant that has been “produced by horticultural or agricultural techniques and not normally found in natural populations”.) Apples have been cultivated for thousands of years - at least since 8,000 B.C .
How many different varieties of Elderberries are there? In contrast to apples, Elderberries have a shorter cultivation history and fewer varieties. One European subspecies, Black Elder (Sambucus nigra ssp. nigra), has been cultivated since the Middle Ages. A subspecies native to North America, American Elder , (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis), is found mostly in the east and midwest. According to researchers at Perdue University, there are over twenty cultivars of this subspecies. Some of the earliest cultivars  date from 1926: Adams 1 & 2 (1926), Johns (1954), Scotia and Nova (1960).
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Even today, horticulturalists are creating new Elderberry cultivars for commercial use. Just last fall, scientists from the University of Missouri’s “Elderberry Improvement Project” introduced a new Elderberry variety - Wyldewood . “The cultivar was named in honor of Wyldewood Cellars Winery of Mulvane, Kansas, a leading promoter of elderberry production in the Midwest and a supporter of the Elderberry Improvement Project.”
Why is there current interest in “improving” Elderberries? Because, in the best tradition of American free enterprise, there’s a new market - the nutraceutical industry. Elderberries (as well as apples ) are high in antioxidants , a chemical that is highly valued in that industry.
Elderberry cultivation is not limited to the East and Midwest. Here in California, we have Blue Elderberry (Sambucus nigra sbsp. caerulea), which was previously known as Mexican Elderberry.
According to the USDA , Blue Elderberries are commercially grown in Oregon. I wonder if and when our California horticulturalists will start a local, “California Elderberry Improvement Project”? The apple folks already have an 10,000 year headstart on us and the East coast has almost 100 years. Time to get busy, don’t ‘cha think?
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, March 12, 6 -8 PM, Star Stories at Towsley Canyon. We’ll be taking a journey on the celestial sidewalk of fame. It features mythological heroes, fierce animals, navigating guides and some pretty outstanding star-light from a few million years ago. Bring a blanket or tarp to lay on and bundle up warm. Meet at the front parking lot. For directions and trail maps, click here .
Saturday, March 12 - Sunday, May 29, SCV Search & Rescue Trail Challenge 2011: 12 Weeks/12 Hikes. Click here  for more information.
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at email@example.com  for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30.
Saturday mornings, March 12, 26.
For a glimpse of our local flowering plants, check out the Facebook page, “90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers ”.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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