Hedysarum alpinum / Alpine sweetvetch

Alpine sweetvetch is an important source of food for many types of animals, including black bears, grizzly bears, American bison, moose, Dall's sheep, and caribou. Bears are adept at digging up the nutritious roots. The roots are a primary food for grizzly bears in some areas, such as Banff National Park. In parts of Alaska this plant is a primary food for Dall's sheep and caribou. Many small mammals, such as voles and short-tailed weasels eat it, and a variety of birds nest in alpine sweetvetch habitat.[1]

Native Alaskan peoples used and still use the plant for food, particularly the fleshy roots.[1] The roots are said to taste like young carrots.[2] The Inupiat people call the plant wild potato and obtain dietary fiber from the roots. Alpine sweetvetch is the most important food source for the Dena'ina people after wild fruit species.[1] The Eskimo train dogs to locate stores of roots that have been cached by mice.[2][3] The roots may be eaten raw or prepared in a number of ways, including boiling, roasting, and frying in grease. They are stored in lard or oil and eaten when other food stores run out.[1] The seeds should not be eaten raw, or in large quantity, as they contain oxalyldiaminopropionic acid and can cause a form of paralysis called lathyrism, which possibly led to the death of Christopher McCandless.[4]


  1. Gucker, Corey L. 2007. Hedysarum alpinum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Retrieved 11-22-2011.

  2. ^ Jump up to:a b c S.G. Aiken, et al. 1999 onwards. Hedysarum alpinum var. alpinum. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. Version: 29th April 2003. Retrieved 11-22-2011.

  3. Jump up^ Hedysarum alpinum. University of Michigan Ethnobotany. Retrieved 11-22-2011.

  4. Jump up^ Jon Krakauer (September 12, 2013). "How Chris McCandless died". The New Yorker Blog: Page-Turner. 'Gedreven door honger eet hij niet alleen de eetbare wortels van een plant, de Hedysarum alpinum, de wild potato, maar ook de zaadjes. En die blijken, anders dan de wortels, wel giftig. (In de film haalt Chris twee planten door elkaar die sterk op elkaar lijken, maar waarvan er één giftig is, en de ander niet-giftig.) Hij gaat eraan, en hij weet het, en hij kan het alleen zichzelf verwijten. Hij sterft, in het volle bewustzijn van zijn fout. Dat is een wrede dood, lijkt mij. De Natuur is geen plek om te verblijven. Not for long anyway'.