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The berries shine blue on the Northern floodplain. Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) is a valuable food source for birds and a historically useful plant for humans. Berry extracts have been suggested to cure influenza and the branches are used to make flutes. It’s also the most powerful wand in the wizardly world of Harry Potter. Parts of the plant contain cyanide-producing glycosides and should be treated with caution, and raw berries can elicit a reaction if consumed in mass. When cooked, however, the berries become harmless and make delicious juice, jam and jelly. We decided to make jam from the berries, which we combined with sugar and lime juice and cooked down to a thick consistency. To add more flavor, we included some dried mint leaves from our garden. You will find many recipes online and only your imagination can limit what you end up with. Enjoy!

Berry Photo- Jeff Clarke Jam Photo - Jeff Gailus

About the Author

Ylva Lekberg

Ylva graduated from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with a M.Sc. in Biology and Horticulture in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Penn State University in 2004. She received the Alumni Association Dissertation Award for her work in agroecology and subsistence farming in Sub-Saharan Africa. Post-doctoral positions at Montana State University and later at Copenhagen University as a Marie Curie Fellow allowed her to explore the role of arbuscular mycorrhiza, a root-fungus symbiosis, for geothermal plants in Yellowstone National Park and coastal grasslands in Denmark. Her research has been published in international journals such as Nature Communications, Ecology Letters, and New Phytologist.

Ylva joined MPG Ranch in 2010. Since then, she has explored how invasive plants common to western Montana, including spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), influence soil microbial community composition and function, and how this in turn may affect invasive success. A lot of her research also focuses on the AM symbiosis in terms of community ecology and physiology. A current project addresses how exchange ratios in this symbiosis may differ among co-occurring plants and depend on soil nutrient availabilities. She uses surveys, field and greenhouse experiments, and literature approaches such as meta-analyses to address questions. To learn more about research and publications from Ylva and her group, see CV below and the Soils, Plants and Invasion section.

In addition to her work at MPG Ranch, Ylva is an adjunct professor at University of Montana at the Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences.