Caragana can provide an important source of food for animals such as camels.
Caragana, more commonly known as the Siberian pea bush, is a genus of shrubs or small trees native to the cold, semi-arid regions of Siberia in Russia and the Manchuria region of northeast China. They were also imported and widely planted in Canada and the northern parts of the United States as windbreaks and protective hedges. The pea bush is hardy even in poor soils, fast growing and tolerant of extreme cold and drought; it is able to thrive in inhospitable landscapes where many other trees and shrubs cannot. In addition to helping to prevent wind erosion, Caragana also provides habitat for wildlife and grazing land for livestock, especially sheep and camels.
Caragana, also known as the Siberian pea bush, is native to the cold, semi-arid regions of Siberia, Russia.
This genus includes over 100 species of shrubs and small trees, of which Caragana arborescens is more commonly known as the Siberian pea or pea. ‘Walkeri’ is a variety of the pea bush that has a watery shape, which makes it more popular for ornamental and landscaping use. ‘Lorbergii,’ ‘Nana’ and ‘Pendula’ are some other varieties that are grown as ornamental shrubs. When used as an ornamental, the shrub’s shape can be altered with selective pruning as it grows.
Caragana can provide pasture for livestock such as sheep.
In general, Caragana grows to a height of 10 to 15 feet (3.1 to 4.6 meters) with a slightly narrower span. It has an erect shape, with multifilament branches and small oval leaves. The deciduous leaves are bright green in spring and summer and turn yellow in autumn. Small yellow flowers appear in May, which are replaced by elongated seed pods during the summer. The fruits turn tan or brown as they ripen and make a popping sound when they open in late summer and autumn.
When planted in rows along the edges of plantations, the Siberian pea bush quickly grows into a dense protective border. It also has a large, branched root system; both qualities make Caragana an excellent choice for keeping soil in place and reducing wind erosion of fields. The caragana can live up to 50 years, but it must be pruned every three to four years to maintain its thick foliage and screening properties.
In China, Caragana has been widely used in land reclamation projects. The extensive roots protect against sand erosion, but also help prevent water erosion on slopes when planted in terraces. Caragana also has nitrogen fixing properties and adds organic matter to the soil in the form of leaves and leaf litter. The previously poor soils were improved by planting and maintaining large orchards of pea bushes.
Caragana is also an important source of nutrition for wildlife, as well as herds of sheep, goats, camels and reindeer. In cold climates, the pea bush provides foliage and bark during the winter, when the prairie grass becomes covered in snow. The seeds can also be harvested in the fall and used as feed for livestock during the winter months. The plant itself benefits from the periodic “pruning” provided by grazing animals. Pruning encourages thicker growth the following spring.