Hedysarum boreale mackenzii - (Richardson.)Löve.&D.Löve.
Common Name Liquorice Root
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards The root is said to be slightly toxic.
Habitats Calcareous gravels and slopes[172].
Range Western N. America - Colorado.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun

Translate this page:

You can translate the content of this page by selecting a language in the select box.


Hedysarum boreale mackenzii Liquorice Root

Hedysarum boreale mackenzii Liquorice Root
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Hedysarum boreale mackenzii is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

H. mackenzii. Richardson.

 Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Root.
Edible Uses:

Root - raw or cooked[177]. Long and sweet[46, 61] with a liquorice-like flavour[183]. Used in spring, the root is crisp and juicy but it becomes tough and woody as the season advances[2, 183].
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.

None known


Other Uses
None known
Cultivation details
Easily grown in ordinary garden soil in a sunny position, preferring a deep well-drained sandy loam[1, 200]. Plants strongly resent root disturbance and should be placed in their permanent positions as soon as possible[1]. Does well in the rock garden or border[1]. 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].
Seed - sow in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe or in the spring[200]. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water. 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. Division in spring. Great care is needed since the plant dislikes root disturbance[200].
Other Names
Found In
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 NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Hedysarum alpinumAlpine Sweetvetch30
Hedysarum arcticum 20
Hedysarum borealeSweet Vetch, Utah sweetvetch, Northern sweetvetch40
Hedysarum hedysaroidesAlpine French Honeysuckle30
Hedysarum occidentaleLiquorice Root, Western sweetvetch40
Hedysarum sachalinense 20
Hedysarum vicioides 20


Print Friendly and PDF
Expert comment
Botanical References
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
sheila williams   Sun Feb 10 2008
This is the plant that in the movie 'Into the Wild' killed Chris McCandless. It is seemingly very toxic and disturbs the digestive system to the poing of making it impossible to eat.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Fri Feb 15 2008
I get the feeling that this is another case of the Movies getting it all wrong. This plant is actually often encouraged to grow in stocking systems and is highly palatable to livestock and other herbivores. There is a report that the root is slightly toxic, but then so are potatoes and many other of our common foods such as beans! It is all a matter of degree.
Norm G Smith   Thu Mar 6 2008
I was reading an article about this, and it seems the seed is the toxic part.

Outside Online Chris McCandless became partly paralyzed and slowly died after eating the seeds.

Norman G Smith   Thu Mar 6 2008
Now here is a website that de-bunks the "poison seeds" theory. I'm no expert, but with the movie "Into the Wild" blaming the death on these seeds I think we will be hearing more about this debate. Peace

terraincognitafilms.com This website de-bunks the "poison seeds" theory.

Mary Lou Tate   Thu Mar 20 2008
Have heard that Hedysarum mackenzii is toxic and can even cause death. True? Saw the movie "Into the Wild". Chris McCandless ingested Hedysarum mackenzii and ultimately met his death.
harry   Mon Jan 4 2010
if the root was slightly toxic why would they use it as a medicene to help your digestion and use it as a sweet.
Here's the long debunking of the rumours spread by Krakauer's book and later the film about McCandless.   Sep 28 2015 12:00AM
Forager's Harvest
In 2008, researchers Treadwell & Clausen tested the root for any chemical basis for toxicity and found no evidence for these rumours. (PDF)   Sep 28 2015 12:00AM
Is Hedysarum mackenziei (Wild Sweet Pea) Actually Toxic?
QR Code

What's this?

This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to our website pages. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by mobile phone (smartphone) cameras. This QR Code is unique to this page. All plant pages have their own unique code. For more information about QR Codes click here.

1. Copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, website, magazines, newspaper etc and even t-shirts.
2. Smartphone users scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to the webpage the QR Code came from.
3. Smartphone users quickly have information on a plant directly for the pfaf.org website on their phone.
Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Hedysarum boreale mackenzii  

Plant Uses

Edible Uses
Medicinal Uses
Other Plant uses
Woodland Gardening
Why Perennial Plants?
Top Edible Plants
Top Medicinal Plants
Garden Design

Twiter      Facebook


Content Help
Support Us
Old Database Search
About Us
Sign In

Stay informed about PFAFs progress,
challenges and hopes by signing up for
our free email ePost. You will receive
a range of benefits including:
* Important announcements and news
* Exclusive content not on the website
* Updates on new information &
functionality of the website & database

We will not sell or share your email address.
You can unsubscribe at anytime.