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|Shelter break of Caragana arborescens|
Caragana arborescens, or Caragana or Siberian peashrub, is a species of legume. It is a perennial shrub or small tree growing to heights of 2–6 metres (6 ft 7 in–19 ft 8 in). Typically, it has a moderate to fast growth rate, being able to grow one to three feet during the first year after trimming. The plant is native to Siberia and parts of China (Heilongjiang Xinjiang ) and neighboring Mongolia and Kazakhstan. It is commonly grown throughout the northern hemisphere as a landscaping plant and ornamental.
Caragana has pod fruits which contain many seeds. These ripen in July and if left, will fall off the shrub and the seeds will grow to become a new plant very near the parent shrub. The leaves of the caragana vary from light green to dark green and are alternate and compound with many small leaflets. Somewhat showy, small, fragrant, yellow flowers bloom in May or June.
The plant has a number of uses for humans. It was taken to the United States by settlers emigrating from the area of the world where the plant is native The original settlers brought the caragana pods and shrubs as a food source while travelling west.
- 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. A legume, the caragana fixes nitrogen. It is suitable for planting in single-row field windbreaks where a dense, short barrier is desired.
- Wildlife habitat - The caragana is used for nesting by several songbirds. The seeds are occasionally eaten by a few songbirds. The plant is not a preferred food for browsing animals, but its fragrant flowers attract many pollen-consuming animals.
- Erosion control - The caragans has an extensive root system that can be used to assist with erosion control.
- Ornamental - The caragana, with its small fragrant flowers and attractive compound leaflets, is used alongside lilacs to create a 'compare and contrast' appearance.
- Bee plants - The caragana has a fragrant flower that naturally will attract bees. The honey created has a pleasant taste, slightly 'fruity'.
- Cultivated food source - The caragana has a slightly bitter tasting 'pea', usually 3-4 to a pod, that is edible. They should be cooked before eaten. There have been no verified cases of poisoning from consuming the caragana pea. Additionally, the yellow flowers which have a taste like peas, can be used in salads to add colour and some flavour.
- Bonsai Trees - make delightful bonsai medium to large size and have year round interest, from bark to stems to flowers and fruit pods.
This plant is marginally adapted to a climate with warm summers and is a winter-hardy, drought-tolerant, long-lived, medium to tall shrub. It can grow well on a wide range of soils; however, it does not perform well on very dry, sandy soils or wet soils. During the summer months of extremely dry years this species may drop its leaves and not grow.
It is common practice to trim the shrub back to the root, with 6 to 12 inches remaining aboveground, when the shrub is desired to appear more like a bush than a tree. The shrub will adapt well to this trimming if adequate water and nitrogen-rich fertilizer is supplied, and will regrow about 4 feet per year until reaching the desired height.
In some areas of the United States this plant is considered to be an invasive species.
There are no known serious disease problems. Grasshoppers can defoliate this species during some years but it recovers well from the attacks. There are no known burrowing animals that feed on this plant's root system.
- Yingxin Liu, Chang Zhaoyang & Gennady P. Yakovlev. "Caragana arborescens". Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved 4 July 2012.