Siberian Pea Tree seeds, discovered!

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We have been searching for seeds of the Siberian Pea Tree (Caragana arborescens) for years. Permies in North America and Europe rave about this plant for it’s hardiness, growth, nitrogen fixing and forage capabilities. But find it in Australia, we could not. Until we found Phoenix Seeds!

Phoenix Seeds is a little seed company in Tasmania. Their catalog is awesome. They have no website. They seem ardently and unashamedly old-school. And I love them to bits. Because they, unlike every other Australian seed company I’ve talked to, stock Siberian Pea Shrub seeds…

Siberian Pea shrub is similar to Honey Locust (no spikes tho, which is great) in many ways, but the reason we’ve been searching for it is because it is a great addition to Milkwood Farm, for the following attributes:

  • Drought hardy
  • Frost hardy
  • Puts up with crappy soil
  • Nitrogen fixing
  • Fast growing
  • Chicken forage
  • Edible peas (they make great dahl, apparently)
  • Deciduous (yay biomass + soil creation)

So there you have it. It won’t replace our fabulous acacias range, nor the tagasaste, nor the honey locusts. But it will hopefully be another addition of a very multifaceted, useful tree that will help build Milkwood into an amazing, fertile place.

You can read more about the delights of the Siberian Pea Tree at Plants for a Future.

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  • eremophila

    Great to know they are still going! I used them in the 80’s.

  • Kristy

    It’s nice when you find something you’ve been looking for :)

    What are they like in terms of ‘weed’ capabilities ie do they stay within their spot or do they spread faster than might be good, if that makes sense?

  • Evan

    How is it nitrogen-fixing? Does it form a relationship with introduced rhizobia in your soil, or is it supplied with rhizobia?

  • Dan Harris Pascal

    Grab those Saskatoon seeds too, like blueberries on a tree.

    • milkwoodkirsten

      Ok will do. All the saskatoon berries i had in Canada were pretty average, but willing to try ’em if you’ve had god ones, Harris!

  • Evan

    Kirsten, it was to my understand that native rhizobia (to the plant) had to be present in the soil, which is why seed is often sold inoculated. Does the seed come supplied with inoculant? If not, the question remains, how will it nitrogen-fix? I’m struggling to find information regarding nitrogen-fixing in alien environments, most information always referw back to inoculating with native rhizobia to the host plant.

    Or am I way off base here?

    • milkwoodkirsten

      Ah right gotcha. Well, i can only speak from experience on this one, as we’ve struggled to find similar info.

      – For some species (broad beans), the bacteria have just shown up and the nodules have duly appeared, even with un-inoculated seed. Maybe we were just lucky – dunno.

      – For some species (casuarina – she-oak) we’ve grown a bunch of them and then seen which ones do well. We’ve then taken soil from underneath the healthy ones and made a tea of sorts with that soil and watered the not-so-healthy casuarina’s with it, which has seemed to work – a trick a tree planter taught us, for re-distributing the helpful bacteria from where it chanced to find the tree, to the others…

      As to whether Phoenix Seeds sells them inoculated, i dont think so. However you could maybe buy some innoculant for your first batch of seedlings and then use the above method for successive seedling generations?

  • Evan

    We need a plant/soil biologist to chime in.

    For some reason, I’m intrigued by the relationship and how permaculturalists use the term ‘nitrogen-fixing’ when it may not be entirely true. According to that link you posted, there are twenty-something strains of rhizobia so there may be a chance that they overlap across continents (slimmer on this island perhaps). Another piece of information is that plants will form relationships with multiple strains, preferring the better one so maybe some foreign fixers don’t fix as well as they could.

    As for nodules, acacia will form them in sterile potting mix (from experience) but the colour of the nodules indicates no fixing. Your method would certainly attempt to inoculate with greater quantities of bacteria but one Ag publication said that the watering method of inoculation may not work on green manure crops (too short-lived?) so would a better method be to remove soil from the root-zone and bury it in another location? Not only bacteria but beneficial fungi as well.

    No fixing doesn’t take away from the pioneering duties they perform though.

  • Lynda

    Love me some Phoenix Seeds. Unfortunately, being a poor uni student I don’t get to support operations like this as much as I’d like. Still, I got the latest catalogue in the mail without having to request it llast year and it was the best surprise!

  • Gabriel

    Thanks been looking for a source for these! How have they performed? Any updates much appreciated :)