‘Pocahontas’: a vigorous and highly productive American elderberry

A.L. Thomas, P.L. Byers, R. Starnes, S.E. Sergent, A. Templemire, K. McGowan, B. Schuessler, M.A. Gold, M.N. Westwood, R. Biagioni
American elderberry (Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis) is a rapidly emerging specialty crop in the midwestern and eastern portions of North America, primarily used in health-promoting dietary supplements. A limited number of improved cultivars are available to elderberry producers, and current breeding programs are largely based on evaluation of promising wild selections. ‘Pocahontas’ is a wild American elderberry selection from Pocahontas, Arkansas (USA) that was provided to the University of Missouri by Rockey Starnes in 2014 for evaluation. Because of its immediate promise, ‘Pocahontas’ was included in a replicated, randomized evaluation of elderberry genotypes at two Missouri locations from 2015 to 2021. ‘Pocahontas’ out-yielded the standard ‘Bob Gordon’ in many situations (site × year). For example, at one site in 2017 and 2018, ‘Pocahontas’ yielded 6.03 and 11.61 kg plot‑1, respectively, whereas ‘Bob Gordon’ yielded 2.54 and 5.16 kg plot‑1. Individual berries from ‘Pocahontas’ were dark purple and medium-sized (65-70 mg) – generally similar to the other genotypes tested. Plants were vigorous and tall (to 1.9 m), with a strong, upright growth habit. Cymes were exceptionally large, bearing even-ripening fruit a few days later than ‘Bob Gordon’. Because of its exceptional vigor and productivity, ‘Pocahontas’ was disseminated to producers beginning in 2019 on a limited scale. Preliminary assessments by producers are positive and demand is very strong for propagules of ‘Pocahontas’.
Thomas, A.L., Byers, P.L., Starnes, R., Sergent, S.E., Templemire, A., McGowan, K., Schuessler, B., Gold, M.A., Westwood, M.N. and Biagioni, R. (2023). ‘Pocahontas’: a vigorous and highly productive American elderberry. Acta Hortic. 1381, 59-68
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2023.1381.8
Sambucus, cultivar, cultivar release, genotype, breeding

Acta Horticulturae