Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chrysopogon zizanioides - vetiver grass

Vetiver grass, is Chrysopogon zizanioides, formerly known as Vetiveria zizanioides, is a perennial grass of Andropogoneae tribe of the Poaceae family.  The Andropogoneae tribe also include the infamous corn ( Zea ), lallang ( Imperata ), lemongrass ( Cymbopogon ), Job’s tears ( Coix ), sugarcane ( Sacharum ), sorghum ( Sorghum ), etc.  Thus it is not surprise vetiver resembles lemongrass in many morphological characteristics.  All member of this tribe utilize C4 carbon fixation in photosynthesis. 

In its origin Indian Subcontinent,  it is known as khus ( Hindi ), Valo ( Gujarati, Marathi ), Kuruveeru ( Telugu ), Vattiver ( Tamil ), Ramaccham ( Malyalam ), etc.

Vetiver can grow up to 1.5 meters in height and form clumps as wide.  The flowers are brownish-purple.  Its root grow vertically downward, up to 4 meter in depth.  Vetiver is frost and fire resistant, drought tolerant, and can sustain heavy grazing.

Most commercially grown vetiver are sterile.  They propagate via producing small offsets from stems.  Thus they are non-invasive and can be easily controlled.  One widely cultivated non-fertile cultigen is ‘Sunshine’, a genotype named after the town of Sunshine, Louisiana, USA.

Vetiver is widely cultivated in the tropical regions of the world.  The world’s major producers are : Haiti, India, Java and Réunion.   It is grown for many different purposes.  Its vertically grown roots make it an excellent stabilizing hedge for stream banks, terraces, and slopes.  Vetiver attracts pest, such as stem borer ( Chilo partellus ), to lay their eggs on vetiver, instead of on crop.  However, the mainly purpose for vetiver cultivation is for its essential oil distilled from its roots, to be used in perfumery industry.  The leaves, as a by-product, are feed to cattle, goats, sheep and horses.  The roots are also used in traditional medicine, as air freshener, to make ropes, and mixed with mud to make bricks for building houses, and to mark boundary lines.

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