Hedysarum canescens Torr. & A.Gray
Hedysarum carnosulum Greene
Hedysarum cinerascens Rydb.
Hedysarum gremiale Rollins
Hedysarum mackenzii canescens (Torr. & A.Gray) B.Fedtsch.
Hedysarum mackenzii fraseri B.Boivin
Hedysarum mackenzii pabulare (A.Nelson) Kearney & Peebles
Hedysarum pabulare A.Nelson
Hedysarum roezlianum Prantl
Hedysarum utahense Rydb.
Common Name: Sweet Vetch
Hedysarum boreale is a herbaceous perennial plant growing from deep taproots with several lateral roots which are sometimes rhizomatous. It produces several erect stems 30 - 60cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food. It is used in soil stabilization projects, especially along the sides of roads, and is suitable for used in ornamental landscaping, especially in drier areas[
Hedysarum boreale mackenzii is widely regarded as toxic and warnings about confusing it with its edible cousin Hedysarum alpinum Richardson (Eskimo potato) abound. After exhaustive research, no chemical basis for toxicity could be found. In addition, a critical examination of the literature could find no credible evidence that the species is toxic in spite of these widespread rumours[
N. America- Yukon & Northwest Territories, through Canada, south through western & central USA to Arizona & Texas; Asia - E. Siberia, Russian Far East
Calcareous gravels and rocky slopes[
]; at elevations from 1,200 - 2,400 metres[
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Hedysarum boreale is a native of cold northern latitudes, being found further south only at higher elevations. It can experience very cold winters and dry climates. It is usually found in areas where the mean annual rainfall is in the range 250 - 450mm[
]. It is usually found in areas where competition from other plants is minimal[
Grows best in a sunny position, tolerating some shade. Easily grown in most garden soils from clayey to sandy, preferring a deep well-drained sandy loam[
]. It is most often found on moderately saline or alkaline soils in the wild, but will grow on moderately acidic to neutral soils[
]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[
Plants strongly resent root disturbance and should be placed in their permanent positions as soon as possible[
Plants live for up to 20 years in the wild.
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[
Young tender roots - raw or cooked[
]. Sliced and eaten raw, boiled, baked or added to soups[
]. A sweet carrot[
] or liquorice-like flavour[
The plant is a good soil stabilizer. It is grown along roadsides where, as well as stabilizing the slopes, it also adds beautification[
Seed - sow in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe or in the spring[
]. Stored seed benefits from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination[
]. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing[
]. Germination usually takes place in 6 - 30 days for spring-sown seed[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer.
The seed can remain viable for at least 6 years when stored in a cool place[
Division in spring. Great care is needed since the plant dislikes root disturbance[