A Grass by Any Other Name . . .

Monday, December 29, 2008

To paraphrase a great thought by William Shakespeare: " A grass, by any other name, is still a grass". But sometimes the abundance of local names and misnomers given Vetiver can obscure the path to the information that we seek.

After some debate by botanists discussed in this blog under the post Is it Vetiveria or Chrysopogon?, the botanical name Chrysopogon zizanioides has prevailed. However, most of the Vetiver System literature found on the Internet was written at the time when Vetiveria zizanioides was the accepted name and may often be the most productive search term. The US Department of Agriculture also lists the name Andropogon muricatus as a synonym, but that name is never used in the context of the Vetiver System.

Local names present an additional difficulty, since these name vary widely and are generally not good search terms. I am attempting to collect these names as I come across them and I welcome your additions and corrections to this post.

The US Department of Agriculture also lists several of these common names in the Gerplasm Resources Information Network:

  • cuscus grass (also found as cous-cous and khus-khus)
  • Vetiver or Vetiver grass
  • chiendent odorant (Source: Pl Res SEAs) [French]
  • vétiver [French]
  • Vetivergras [German]
  • khas-khas [India]
  • capim-de-cheiro (also found as capim-vetiver) [Portuguese (Brazil)]
  • capim-sândalo [Portuguese (Brazil)]
  • patchuli-falso [Portuguese (Brazil)]
  • zacate violeta (also found as secate violetta) [Spanish]
The "Patchuli-falso" (False Patchouli) name seems to have provided various derivative misnomers in the Caribbean - Pachulí in the Dominican Republic and Pacholí in Puerto Rico. The true Patchouli (also patchouly or pachouli) being Pogostemon patchouli, a plant in the mint family that is also a source of aromatic oils.

Some Latin-American countries also refer to it as Pasto Vetiver. The name Arrow grass is also used in St. Kitts. A Chinese source had the name Xieng Geng Sao, but I am still looking for other Asian and African names.

As you can see, the local names are endless and with multiple spelling variations. Be sure that you are getting the right variety of Vetiver grass recommended by The Vetiver Network International for your bio-engineering projects.

Vetiver System PowerPoint Presentations

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Vetiver Network International (TVNI) publishes a collection of PowerPoint presentations on Vetiver grass and The Vetiver System using the eSnips file storage service. They comprise selected PowerPoints from previous Vetiver conferences. Some have Spanish captions.

These presentations may be downloaded and used for local presentations or translations.

Go to eSnips

New Certificates of Technical Excellence Awarded

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Vetiver Network International (TVNI) just awarded several of its members a series of well-deserved Certificates of Technical Excellence. The purpose of “Certification of Technical Excellence” is twofold:
  1. Recognition of high quality work and demonstration of a high level of knowledge in specific areas of the Vetiver System technology
  2. Classification of the certified person and the relevant area of excellence in order to make it easier for potential clients to know what area of excellence the certified person has actually achieved and has capability.
I am pleased to report that my nursery, my clients, and this blog were instrumental in this TVNI Certificate of Technical Excellence for "Vetiver Propagation and nursery management, soil conservation, and Vetiver information dissemination." I thank you all, clients and readers, for your support and participation.

We also congratulate our friends and colleagues accross the world on their certifications. The complete 2008 list includes:

Class 1: Qualified in at least three areas of specific applications.

Doug Richardson
- California, USA
Vetiver Propagation and Nursery Management, Slope Stabilization, Landscaping and agriculture
Mary Noah Manarang
- Philippines
Propagation, erosion control, slope stabilization, and contaminated land rehabilitation

Roley Noffke
- South Africa
Propagation, erosion control, slope stabilization, rehabilitation of contaminated lands, and vetiver community involvement

Class 2: Qualified in at least two areas of specific applications.

Norman Vant Hoff - Indonesia
Vetiver Propagation and Nursery Management, Waste Water Management and Pollution Control

Yoann Coppin
- Madagascar
Vetiver propagation and nursery management, slope stabilization, and vetiver community involvement.

Don Miller
- New Zealand
Erosion control, watershed conservation, propagation and comunity involvement

Marco Forti
- Italy
Vetiver propagation and nursery management, erosion control, other uses, soil conservation and vetiver information dissemination.

Alberto Rodriguez
- Puerto Rico, USA
Vetiver Propagation and nursery management, soil conservation, and vetiver information dissemination.

Mary Wikowski - Hawaii, USA
Vetiver Propagation and nursery management, soil conservation, and vetiver information dissemination.

Note: Information relating to obtaining a Certificate of Technical Excellence is contained in this document. The complete list of certified persons worldwide is here.

Jamaica - Caribbean All-Hazards Conference Presentation

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yeah, Man! I just returned from Jamaica, after having delivered a presentation on the Vetiver System to the 2008 Caribbean All-Hazards Conference attendees. Dick Grimshaw, the founder and chairman of The Vetiver Network International had been invited to deliver this talk but, unable to attend himself, he asked me to fill-in for him. The conference took place at the Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay from December 15th to the 17th.

Stepping into Dick’s shoes is a scary prospect, and having to represent The Vetiver Network in front of an audience of disaster management and mitigation professionals was a daunting proposition. This conference was directed at emergency management personnel, researchers, private sector property management (hotels, large businesses, etc.), media personnel, educators, political leaders, economic sector officials (tourism, agriculture, housing, etc.), and other persons working with managing impacts of hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding and other hazards.

Flying to Jamaica to talk about grass is as improbable as driving to the North Pole to teach snowball making - you try telling that story to an immigration official at the Jamaica airport! Still, armed with Dick’s excellent presentation material (with a few tweaks of my own) I stepped on the podium on Monday for my 11:30 a.m. presentation – at 12:15 p.m. My little Vetiver hedge being the only barrier between this group of hazard veterans and their lunch had all the makings of another Caribbean disaster.

The barrage of questions at the end of my talk was evidence that grass had taken a new meaning in the Caribbean. Many hallway, lunch, and Jamaica Delight cocktail meetings later, I had promises of pilot projects in Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and others. Organizing key players into a Caribbean Vetiver Network is now a real possibility that I will start working on.

The conference was very successful in bringing together government agencies, academic institutions, and private sector for information exchange, dialogue, and development of methods and practice to reduce the harmful impacts of hazards and disasters in the Caribbean Region.

A Vetiver Caribbean Network is now being organized to provide a central site for the information exchange and networking among persons interested in Vetiver grass technology in the Caribbean. Visit the Google discussion group site and join if you are part of that group.

Vetiver has an important role to play in that context, and Puerto Rico is a strong contender for hosting next year’s event – something I really look forward to . . . stay tuned.

Client Profile - Quarry Island Cove Demonstration Project , Oklahoma, USA


The Poteau Valley Improvement Authority (PVIA) provides water to most of rural LeFlore County in eastern Oklahoma. The source of that water is Wister Lake, a reservoir constructed by the US Corps of Engineers in 1949. Over the last several decades the lake has become highly eutrophic* due to large inputs of phosphorus and sediment from its watershed. Besides the negative effects on lake ecology, this increases the costs of treating the water for drinking and other uses.

In the summer of 2008, PVIA received a matching grant from the U. S. A. EPA through the Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment's office to assist in the development of the Quarry Island Cove Demonstration Project. Named for the cove on in which PVIA's water intake is located, the project has two components: aeration and floating wetlands. Twenty-five fine bubble aerators were placed on the bottom of the lake covering approximately 4.5 acres adjacent to the water system intake. Rising air bubbles cause the water to circulate and circulation increases the dissolved oxygen content of the water. This reduces phosphorus release from lake sediments, oxidizes metals in the lake rather than in the treatment plant, provides an oxygen refuge for fish and other aquatic life, and decreases the growth of cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) that can cause taste and odor problems.

To complement the circulation and increased oxygen, 16 floating wetland rafts were constructed. Each raft is approximately 4' x 10' and built of HDPE pipe for flotation and a coir mattress that serves as the supporting matrix for the plants. Five of the rafts were planted with Vetiver from Agriflora's nursery, and the rest were planted with a suite of native wetland species collected locally. PVIA is monitoring the growth and survival of the plants to determine which species will perform best. One test for the Vetiver will be how well it survives the Oklahoma winter. So far, Vetiver is showing the best growth, both of plant tops and, more importantly, of roots. Cattails are second to Vetiver, but late season harvesting by beaver has been destructive to cattails but not Vetiver.

Wetland plants growing on the rafts will remove nutrients from the water. In addition, the underwater root surface area will be colonized by bacteria and algae that will also remove nutrients. These microbial and algal biofilms will be fed upon by zooplankton, and the zooplankton by fish, thereby creating an alternative food web and nutrient cycle which should further reduce nutrient concentrations in the water.

Based on the successful construction and growth of the first set of floating wetlands this past summer, PVIA staff are constructing 32 additional rafts this winter for installation next spring. This will triple the number of installed wetlands. Half of the new rafts will be planted with Vetiver. Monitoring of dissolved oxygen levels, plant growth, and nutrient concentrations will be conducted throughout the 2009 growing season.

The design and implementation of this visionary application is in the capable hands of Steve Patterson, a consultant practicing restoration ecology through his firm Bio X Design. Steve's excellent Ecosystem Design blog is excellent reading on novel ecological ideas

Notes on photos: The photos were taken in September after about 3 months growth. The blobs on the rafts in the roots photo are freshwater bryozoa, a filter feeding colonial animal. Vetiver Photo credits: Steve Patterson, Bio x Design.

Another excellent picture and additional information can be found on this article from the Tulsa World newspaper from August 2008. We will continue to follow this project and report on its future progress.


* eutrophic - result of the process by which a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (as phosphates) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen (Merriam-Webster)

Keeping the Fianarantsoa Railway Steaming Ahead, Madagascar

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In the past, the Fianarantsoa Railway Line used to be closed for months most years on account of damage done by cyclones. This railway stretches for 200 Km. in Madagascar. All this landslide sediment eventually reaches and pollutes downstream waters. After extensive rehabilitation and stabilization along the rail line using Vetiver grass, the railroad has not been closed again when hit by tropical storms

In stabilizing the railway cuts with Vetiver grass special social issues had to
be taken into account. Farmers cropped along the right of way and they could not be removed. So, farmers were given a long-term right of occupancy of the land in return for their involvement. With some training, farmers adopted cropping models that combined crops with Vetiver hedges.

To stop fu
ture landslides, the slopes in these pictures had to be replanted with Vetiver hedges using the new farming models. This image shows the combination of the Vetiver System and farm crops. In many cases, local communities must be involved with planning and executing these types of programs if they are to be successful.

The travel article, Making Tracks in the Jungle, from the British publication
The Observer, briefly mentions the Vetiver plantings. It is, otherwise, an interesting story on the adventure of train travel in Madagascar.

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