Could someone tell me what this plant is that is in my backyard? It’s a tree about 20 ft tall. It is covered with purple berries. The birds don’t seem to eat the berries, so they may be poisonous. The leaves seem to be turning yellow, so the plant may be deciduous (then again it could just be unhealthy).

I am thinking it might be an elderberry. Does anyone know? I am trying to decide whether to replace it or not.

Berries up close

The leaves

And a shot of the tree (it’s foggy today):

UPDATE: It is probably a Mexican Elder. The berries taste like leaves and have no juice. The plant is ugly, although it does provide a lot of privacy in the backyard.

Long term plan: Remove tree. Replace with an avocado?

UPDATE 2: Actually, it is a Japanese Privet. I have grown fond of the tree since writing this. It can stay.

9 thoughts on “What Is This Plant?

  1. Bill Gregg

    Looks like a Mexican Elder, maybe canadiensis subspecies. Appears distressed, maybe from the ivy thats choking it.

  2. joy

    Bill–Thank you! That makes perfect sense. And yes, I think the ivy is choking everything in my backyard right now.

  3. Bill Gregg

    Hi Joy. I vote for the tree, lol. If you tear off the vines and feed it with some fertilizer spikes it will look like this:

  4. Elizabeth

    It looks like a Japanese ligustrum to me.

    The berries are mildly toxic, so don’t, uh, make jam or anything before you get a positive ID.

  5. Bill Gregg

    Elizabeth’s right. The leaves aren’t serrated.

  6. Joy

    Bill and Elizabeth–Thanks for your help. It definitely looks like the Japanese lingustrum. I will probably take it out long-term, but for now I will save it from the ivy. 🙂

  7. Amy

    Hi Joy,

    Just sticking one more note in to say it doesn’t look like an elderberry to me… if you want some good links to photos and information on elderberries for more comparisons, I have tons at my site at 🙂

  8. Joy

    Thanks again, all. I decided to let the tree stay for the time being, whatever it is. I killed the ivy off the poor thing and it turns out to be a good climbing tree. Those are valuable.

  9. […] The neatest part of all this is that a red finch family has built a nest in my garage. Every time I go into the backyard, the female flies away and sits in the branches of the mystery tree in an attempt to distract me from her nest. […]

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