Native Americans made much use of the American elder. They used the bark, flowers and fruits for medicines; they made cakes, puddings and breads from the berries; and they made nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks from the berries. Elderberries have more vitamin C per unit weight than oranges or tomatoes. Young boys of not-too-long-ago knew that the pithy stems of American elder are easily whittled hollow to make blow guns and whistles. The berries are relished by no fewer that 50 kinds of birds.

From Missouri Plants

Other info. - This species is actually quite aggressive if given the right conditions. It spreads by suckering. The fruits are edible if cooked (boiled) and this plant is the source of the ever popular "Elderberry jelly". The pith of the stems is large, soft, and easily removed and my dad tells childhood stories of making flutes from stems of a similar European species. Don't get too much sap in your mouth though, it's toxic. The plants contain calcium oxalate crystals which do a number on a persons kidneys.

ripe berries turn blue