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.

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