FROM THE RANCH | Plant Profile: Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum is a common flowering plant, easily available in seed or in pony packs at your local nursery. It is usually planted in the fall in Southern California. This is what it looks like today (March 19). Sweet alyssum happens to be extremely useful in the edible ecological garden. First, in addition to the sweet smell of the flowers, the leaves and flowers are edible, with a peppery, cress-like taste. Perhaps more importantly though, alyssum attracts multiple beneficial insects to the garden, and its small size makes it easy to tuck in on the borders of vege-beds, around fruit trees, or many other places in the garden.

Specifically, sweet alyssum is known to attract three main categories of beneficial predator insects (those that eat pest insects in the garden): 1) Minute pirate bugs (who eat aphids, thrips, mites, psyllids, and insect eggs), 2) Parasitic wasps (who lay eggs in aphids, beetles, flies, moths, sawflies, mealy bugs, and scales.  The larva hatch and eat their way out, killing the host), 3) Hover flies (whose larva feed on aphids).  The flowers also attract butterflies and bees.

Here are a couple more images of sweet alyssum along with California poppy under a young Spice Zee Nectaplum tree (It’s a cross between a nectarine and a plum).

 

Scott Kleinrock is the Ranch project coordinator at The Huntington.

One thought on “FROM THE RANCH | Plant Profile: Sweet Alyssum

  1. Dear Scott,

    This info is my favorite kind! Share with us recognizable plants that are and always have been edible. I have been munching on my Nasturtium leaves in omelets and Day Lilies in salads, well as soon as I was told they wouldn’t kill me. I want to follow through on your info that sweet alyssum is munchable, but there is needed info for complete confidence. Such as, is there any part that will cause harm (such a rhubarb)? Is there any quantity that will cause harm (as in day lilies)? Is there a best time of year to enjoy Sweet Alyssum (as in Dandelions)? Is there a best age of the plant when to harvest? Is it cook-able or only used fresh? How about a little ‘try it’ recipe to go along with your introduced garden edible that we all assumed was just pretty garden flower or a pesky weed…not to say I will not now search the web for a sweet alyssum recipe :) Thanks for sharing your plant love with us all!

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