Siberian Pea Shrub
Facts About The Siberian Peashrub
The Siberian peashrub is an interesting plant. It is a member of the pea family, and while the pea itself is perhaps not as tasty as its vegetable garden cousin, being a bit on the bitter side, it is nevertheless edible when cooked. The immature pea pod is also good eating, as are the yellow blossoms, which have a definite pea-like flavor. The pea is rich in both fatty oils, is nearly one-third protein, and is often recommended as an emergency or survival food. The blossoms attract honeybees and the honey made from peashrub pollen is claimed to have an excellent taste. None of the parts of the plant are considered toxic to humans or to livestock.
A Multiple Use Plant - The Siberian peashrub is actually a plant of many uses. Though not native to the United States, it has been cultivated in a number of areas and has even become somewhat invasive in places. It does best in the northern tier of states and in Canada, not surprising given the fact it is native to Siberia and Manchuria. It is a deciduous shrub which can grow to a height of up to 15' with 10' being perhaps a bit more typical, and can be trained to grow as a small tree.
The Siberian peashrub's growth habits make it very useful as a windbreak, and in many places is planted in a single or double row to provide a measure of protection to other crops. Its extensive root system also makes it a valuable plant on slopes for the purpose of erosion control. Another useful characteristic of the plant is its nitrogen-fixing properties which allows the peashrub to serve as a soil improvement plant.
Also known as the Arborescens, the two major subspecies of the Siberian peashrub are given the botanical names Caragana arborescens and Caragana fruticosa. It is a fairly easy plant to find in nurseries in those areas where it will grow well. In states south of those bordering the Great Lakes, Maryland, and Nebraska, the plant will grow, but often will be stunted. The peashrub is known to grow in New Mexico, presumably at the higher and cooler elevations. The Siberian peashrub can survive periods of cold harsh weather and drought, though will usually not survive when the temperature dips near -40 degrees. It has a medium life span, in the order of 20 years.
Thrives On Neglect - If grown as a small tree, a windbreak, or a hedge, the Siberian peashrub is a very low maintenance plant. While it refers a well-drained soil, as do most vegetable plants, it will do well in very poor soil and requires very little attention and virtually no maintenance once established. It can tolerate soil which is quite alkaline or is nearly completely lacking in fertility, and is even known to tolerate soils which have been contaminated by deicing agents.
Other Uses - Among the other uses of this versatile plant are as a food source and shelter for wildlife, especially upland game, while the leaves have been used as a dye and the wood and bark of the trunk also has been put to some limited uses. The plant also has medicinal value, enjoying some uses in treatments in the gynecological area, and is said to play a valuable role in the treatment of breast cancer.
While the root system can be quite extensive, the plant normally expands its territory by spreading seeds as the seed pods crack and burst open. Seeds are also spread by birds. The peashrub is usually propagated by cuttings or layering, though can easily be grown from seeds, which have a fair germination rate.