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Caragana arborescens - Lam.

Common Name Siberian Pea Tree, Siberian peashrub
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 2-7
Known Hazards Reports that this plant contains toxins have not been substantiated[65]. The occurrence of cystine in the seeds is doubtful[65].
Habitats River banks, pebbles, sands, open forests and forest edges, gully slopes and stony slopes[74].
Range E. Asia - Siberia to Mongolia. Occasionally naturalized in Europe in France[50].
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Caragana arborescens Siberian Pea Tree, Siberian peashrub

Caragana arborescens Siberian Pea Tree, Siberian peashrub


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C. arborescensis is a medium to fast growing perennial shrub. A species of legume. Leaves are alternate and compound with small leaflets and can be light to dark green. Small, yellow fragrant flowers bloom in early summer with pod fruits, containing many seeds, ripening in mid summer. Both the seed and seed pods are edible. Medicinal Uses include: Cancer; Emmenagogue. Other uses include: Dye; Fibre; Hedge; Oil; Shelterbelt; Soil stabilization; Hedge.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Caragana arborescens is a deciduous Shrub growing to 6 m (19ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 2 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Seed  Seedpod
Edible Uses: Oil

Seed - cooked[2, 105]. Small but produced in abundance[11], there are 4 - 6 seeds per pod[202]. A bland flavour, it is best used in spicy dishes[183]. The raw seed has a mild pea-like flavour, though we are not sure if it should be eaten in quantity when raw[K]. The seed contains 12.4% of a fatty oil and up to 36% protein[183, 269], it has been recommended as an emergency food for humans[65]. More than just an emergency food, this species has the potential to become a staple crop in areas with continental climates[K]. Young pods - cooked and used as a vegetable[46, 61, 105, 177, 183, 269].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Cancer  Emmenagogue

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 dysmenorrhoea and other gynaecological problems[269].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Companion  Dye  Fibre  Hedge  Hedge  Oil  Shelterbelt  Soil stabilization

A fibre obtained from the bark is used for making cordage[46, 61, 74, 269]. A blue dye is obtained from the leaves[74, 269]. The seed contains 12.4% of a fatty oil[74]. The plant can be grown as a hedge[160]. It is quite wind-resistant and can also be planted in a shelterbelt[200]. The plant has an extensive root system and can be used for erosion control, especially on marginal land[160]. Because of its nitrogen-fixing capacity, it is valued as a soil-improving plant[269].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Hedge  Hedge  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop  Staple Crop: Protein

Succeeds in most well-drained soils, preferring full sun and a light sandy dry or well-drained soil[1, 11, 200]. Tolerates very alkaline soils[202]. Plants do not require a rich soil[1, 11, 108], succeeding on marginal land[160]. Established plants are drought resistant[160]. Fast growing[188]. Dormant plants are hardy to about -30°c[184], they prefer a continental climate and do not grow so well in areas that do not have very cold winters[200]. They grow and fruit very well in the eastern half of the country, even in northern areas, though they do not do so well in the wetter west[K]. The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun[K]. The Siberian pea shrub has an excellent potential to become a staple food crop. The seed is nutritious and wholesome, although rather small it is often very freely borne and is easily harvested[K]. This species has also been recommended as a nitrogen-fixing windbreak and ground cover plant that binds the soil and produces fibre and dye stuffs[218]. C. boisii and C. fruticosa are closely related to this species[182] and can probably be used similarly[K]. A very ornamental plant, some named forms have been developed for their ornamental value[182]. 'Nana' is a very compact dwarf form[183] that grows slowly[11]. 'Pendula' has stiffly pendent branches but is otherwise the same as the type species[11]. A good bee plant[74]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is multistemmed with multiple stems from the crown [1-2].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Simply managed rows of shrubs and trees.
  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to enhance crop production, protect people and livestock and benefit soil and water conservation.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.
  • Staple Crop: Protein  (16+ percent protein, 0-15 percent oil). Annuals include beans, chickpeas, lentils, cowpeas, and pigeon peas. Perennials include perennial beans, nuts, leaf protein concentrates, and edible milks.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[200]. It usually germinates in 2 weeks[K]. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water then sown in a cold frame[78, 113, 200]. If the seed has not swollen then scarify it and re-soak for another 12 hours before sowing[138]. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 20°c[138]. Good percentage[11]. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. There are approximately 40,000 seeds per kilo[269]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame[113]. Layering in spring.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Black karagana, Shu Jinjier, Tree Caragana,

Asia, Australia, Canada, China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, North America, Russia, Siberia*, Tasmania, USA,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Caragana boisiiSiberian peatreeShrub2.0 2-9 FLMNDM404
Caragana brevispinaLong-Stalked Pea-shrubShrub2.5 4-9  LMNDM413
Caragana decorticans Shrub5.4 5-9  LMNDM001
Caragana frutexRussian pea shrubShrub1.2 2-7 SLMNDM002
Caragana fruticosaSiberian Peashrub,Shrub2.0 0-0 FLMNDM305
Caragana gerardiana Shrub1.0 4-8  LMHNM003
Caragana jubataShag-SpineShrub1.0 3-7  LMNDM013
Caragana microphyllaLittleleaf PeashrubShrub2.0 4-9 FLMNM003
Caragana pygmaeaPygmy PeashrubShrub1.2 3-7 SLMNDM102
Caragana sinicaChinese Pea ShrubShrub1.5 5-9  LMNDM12 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment

Caragana arborescens

Administrator .

Feb 10 2011 12:00AM

Hello, Interesting plant i would like to have an idea of productivity per tree. How much kg per tree or hectar and more details like that. Is it possible ? Regards



Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Megan   Mon Mar 27 2006

When I was about three years old in Victoria, B.C., I and two other small kids almost died from eating Cargana peapods. I remember them being pleasant to taste, not bitter. My parents had a very stressful time trying to awaken before my stomach was pumped. They only knew about it because one of the other children started throwing up and they went to the hospital. I was already in a deep sleep to which I would never have awoken except for them contacting my parents.

Urban   Fri Jun 2 2006

Are you sure it was caragana arborescens that you ate in Victoria? Not many growing around victoria, but lots of laburnum, scotch broom, etc; I have eaten caragana routinely, with no ill effect. It is most likely that you ate one of these.

Erkki Aalto   Sat Aug 19 2006

There is a beautiful tale about how Caragana arborescens came to Finland. I don't believe it is true, but let's record it here. When the Finnish POW:s returned to Finland after the Great Northern War they had Caragana seeds as food with them. At home they threw the remaining seeds away and the germinated. Anyway, Caragana grows well in Finland, which proves it is extremely tolerant.

james finley   Fri Jul 25 2008

I've never seen Caragana in Victoria but lots of Scotch Broom. Undoubtedly Megan ate the latter which is toxic Caragana thrives on the prairies but over time is a very invasive species like Scotch Broom. Yet it is highly drought tolerant, a great wind break and has wildlife value. The seed with their high energy and protein content do indeed have potential as a food and it is somewhat surprising that agricultural organizations have not looked into the development of cultivars. That being said, it is noteworthy that caragana peas do not seem to be consumed by native wildlife species suggesting that the raw seeds have some sort of alkaloidal deterrence mechanism. By the way, it is properly called the Siberian Peashrub, since it is not a tree.

   Thu Jun 11 2009

What would be the best way to remove or kill this tree completely?

David Dildine   Sun Jul 5 2009

I purchased a Caragana Arborescens a a nursery about June 1. It was about ten feet tall and shaped like a tree. It appeared healthy when I purchased it, but now a month later, the leaves are turning yellow, and the pods are brown and cracking. I may have over watered it. How much should it be watered, and if I did over water it, will it likely recover and survive?

david (volunteer)   Sun Jul 5 2009

David, I really cant say for sure, it may just be loosing its' leaves for the winter (if your'e in the southern hemisphere) it is drought tolerent (see Cultivation Details above) so shouldn't need much water,I'd give a generous water (a few minutes with a hose) once a week for a month or so to help it get established. In general the bigger the tree, ten feet would be big, the less adaptable it is to new situations, failure is more likely.

   Feb 6 2012 12:00AM

As far as I read in Bill Mollison's books, Caragana provides great food for poultry. Thank you for all your work, Silviu (Romania)

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