Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Caprifoliaceae are perennial and mostly woody plants that include vines, shrubs, and small trees. The leaves are opposite and usually linear, and sometimes join together to form a disc around the stem (as in the honeysuckles.) The 4 or 5 lobed calyx is usually small, and the 4 or 5 lobed corolla often forms a substantial tube. The lobes may be equal, or formed into two lips with 4 lobes and the upper and 1 large lobe for the lower. The stamens attach to the tube, aternating with the lobes, with the fruiting portion of the pistil below where the calyx and corolla lobes originate. The fruit, usually a fleshy berry, has 2 to 5 seed forming divisions.

The Honeysuckle family is best known domestically in our area from the climbing garden honeysuckle, a close relative of our local Lonicera hispidula vacillans (Hairy Honeysuckle). Many of the wild native species will do well in the garden also, if given the proper conditions they need. The trees (Red Elderberry and Blue Elderberry) can get quite large, and the honeysuckles and snowberries spread aggressively, so they will need room and tending to.

On Montara Mountain, members of Caprifoliaceae include:

Lonicera hispidula
var. vacillans - (Hairy Honeysuckle)

Lonicera involucrata
var. lebebourii - (Twinberry)

Sambucus mexicana - (Blue Elderberry)

Sambucus racemosa
var. racemosa - (Red Elderberry)

Symphoricarpos albus
var. laevigatus - (Snowberry)

Symphoricarpos mollis - (Creeping Snowberry)



 Sambucus racemosa racemosa
Red Elderberry

Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Flowers: White, tiny, 5 petals; in dome - like or peaked upright clusters, developing from red buds. Note: Blue Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) has flower clusters that are wider than tall, often flat - topped.

Blooms: April - May

Leaves: Five to seven toothed leaflets per leaf.

Fruit/Seeds: Tiny red balls; in upright clusters.
CAUTION: Red Elderberries are POISONOUS!

Location: Moist slopes, along creeks. Hazelnut trail in San Pedro Valley County Park, along Martini Creek in McNee Ranch State Park, along San Pedro Mountain road above Pacifica.

Status: Native - Common.

Sambucus racemosa racemosa

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Further description & Comment: Up to 20 feet tall, deciduous. Aside from the difference in the shape of the flower raceme, S. racemosa racemosa puts out new leaves and blooms earlier in the year than it's close relative, Sambucus mexicana (Blue Elderberry), and has larger leaves. S. mexicana's range is limited to moist areas near creeks and drainages - S. racemosa racemosa has a wider range and is adapted to drier habitats.

This photo shows the berries (green, ripening to red) developing from where the flower raceme had been.

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A mature Red Elderberry in bloom above San Pedro Mountain Road. Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf.

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Symphoricarpos albus
var. laevigatus

Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Flowers: Tiny whitish-pink to pink bells, tiny; hanging in clusters.

Blooms: May - June

Leaves: Oval with slightly wavy edges, in opposite pairs.

Fruit/Seeds: Spongy white balls; July - September.

Location: Nearly all trails.

Status: Native - Common.

Symphoricarpos albus
var. laevigatus

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Further description & Comment: 2 to 4 feet tall, deciduous bush with spreading branches.

Snowberry tends to grow in colonies of many plants intertwined together and often covering many square yards on a hillside. When the berries do come out in late summer, it can look like the bushes are covered witha fresh snowfall.

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