Caragana arborescens Lam.
General: deciduous large shrub to small tree, up to 5 m
tall, typically multistemmed with erect to spreading
branches, often with branches and foliage down to the
base, from a dense, spreading root system.
Leaves: alternate or whorled, 5-10 cm long, pinnately
compound with 8 to 12 leaflets in pairs, without end leaflet,
the leaflets about 15-25 mm long, entire, elliptic to broadly
oblanceolate with a short point at the tip, short-silky-hairy
when young, later almost hairless.
Flowers: one to 4 in bundles from leaf axils, long-
stalked, yellow, about 2 cm long. Calyx about 2/5 of the
flower length, light green, short-soft-hairy, with short,
triangular teeth. Banner folded up on the sides, the wings
longer than the keel.
Flowering time: May-June.
Fruits: pods, about 3-6 cm long and about 3 mm wide,
linear-lanceolate, green and strongly flattened at first,
when mature more cylindrical and brownish, opening
forcefully with a popping sound.
Roadsides, escaped from cultivation, in s.w. and s.c.
parts of MT. Native of Siberia and Manchuria, used for
windbreaks. Alkali-tolerant, able to withstand extreme
cold and dryness.
Edible and Medicinal plant: see below.
(click on image for full size)
(click on images for full size)
The caragana has a slightly bitter tasting
'pea', usually 3-4 to a pod, that are edible. They should be cooked before eaten. There have been no verified
cases of poisoning from consuming the caragana pea. The seed contains 12.4% of a fatty oil and up to 36%
protein, and it has been recommended as an emergency food for humans. More than just an emergency food,
this species has the potential to become a staple crop in areas with continental climates. The young pods
can be eaten cooked and used as a vegetable. Additionally, the yellow flowers which have a taste like
peas, can be used in salads to add color and some flavor.
The whole plant, known as ning tiao, is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, and the orifice
to the womb, and for dysmenorrhea and other gynecological problems.
The plant can be used for windbreaks. The caragana is recommended for planting in the outer rows of multi-row
plantings. It can be used to neutralize soil to prepare for further planting. It is suitable for planting
in single-row field windbreaks where a dense, short barrier is desired. The caragana has an extensive
root system that can be used to assist with erosion control. The shrub has a fragrant flower that naturally
will attract bees. The honey created has a pleasant taste, slightly 'fruity'. Because of its nitrogen-fixing
capacity, it is valued as a soil-improving plant.
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