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Elderflower season is upon us and it’s a wonderful time where utilising the strong floral aroma of these fantastic late spring early summer flower is a must. With temperatures on the rise we find ourselves approaching summer and the signs are clear. Bees frequent the wildflowers or buzz into your door whilst preparing spring vegetables like asparagus or getting rhubarb ready for a must-have crumble and custard.

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Most will be thinking about elderflower as an ingredient by now but it’s not all bright and breezy as there are some risks before going out gathering.

The umbellifers is where loads of tasty ingredients sit but also some of the most poisonous plants. The umbels (flower/seed heads) resemble the shape of elderflower. Poison hemlock is probably the most common mistake as it will grow through elder very easily as shown in the video and the flower structure is similar. I would also say hemlock water dropwort is a similar risk although the flower structure is different I have found them growing through elder before. Please make sure you check what you are gathering from and especially that it has a bark as the elder will.

The second is Giant Hogweed a plant brought over by Victorian botanists for its beauty and to decorate gardens acting as a status symbol. It has a dangerous sap that I’m assuming the victorians weren’t aware of called Furanocoumarin. Furanocoumarin strips the melanin from your skin – leaving you exposed to the suns harmful uv rays. Worst case 3rd degree burns & blisters are the outcome which can several years. So getting this sap on your skin on a sunny day is a serious risk especially as I’ve seen it growing all amongst elder on Hackney Marshes.

I’ll be back with more uses for elderflower in my videos but certainly ID properly. It’s not worth the risk otherwise.


Author george

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