Pictured above: Hierochloe odorata

This is a fragrant genus with 3-flowered spikelets in which only the upper one is perfect. Glumes are shiny and as long or longer than the lemmas. The fertile lemma is slightly hairy at the apex.

There is 1 species in MN, and it is native.

Common species:
Hierochloe odorata (hi eh row klo' ee oh doo ray' tah)

  • Synonyms: None
  • Common names: sweet grass, vanilla grass, Seneca grass; Lakota: peji wacanga, ite asniyanpi; Ojibway: wiingashk, wiishkobi-mashkosi
  • Origin and habitat: Native; moist meadows and bog edges, moist roadsides
  • Identifying characters: This is a rhizomatous perennial that spreads vigorously and sometimes forms tufts. The upper leaf blades are much shorter than the lower, and often become more pubescent. Inflorescences are short open panicles with the glumes wider than the awnless lemmas.
  • Comments: Sweet grass is another species that flowers early in the summer. It was burned in peace pipes in ceremonies of several American Indians tribes to induce the presence of goodness and was spread on church floors to impart sweet incense. It has also been used in perfumes; semi-cultivated at one time for its fragrance (especially when crushed) and occasionally for its fiber. The sweet scent is generally apparent only in dried material. The Ojibway often used it in their basketry and for various types of ornaments. Another, unrelated, lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) from the southern hemisphere is often found in the horticultural trade.


Hierochloe map

Additional species in Minnesota:


Copyright 2002, A.F. Cholewa, J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota / No portion of this guide may be duplicated without written permission of author.