Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly known as vetiver (derived from the
Tamil: வெட்டிவேர் veṭṭivēr) is a perennial
bunchgrass of the
Poaceae family, native to India.
Vetiver is most closely related to
Sorghum but shares many
morphological characteristics with other fragrant grasses, such as
Cymbopogon citratus), citronella (
Cymbopogon nardus, C.
winterianus), and palmarosa (
3.1 Skin care
Soil and water conservation
3.2.2 Runoff mitigation and water conservation
3.3 Crop protection and pest repellent
3.3.1 Vetiver as a termite repellent
3.4 Animal feed
3.5 Food and flavorings
3.6 Perfumery and aromatherapy
3.6.1 Essential oil
3.10 Other uses
4 Agricultural aspects
4.1 Environmental requirements
4.2 Crop management
7 External links
Vetiver grows to 150 centimetres (5 ft) high and form clumps as
wide. Under favorable conditions, the erect culms can reach 3m in
height. The stems are tall and the leaves are long, thin, and
rather rigid. The flowers are brownish-purple. Unlike most grasses,
which form horizontally spreading, mat-like root systems, vetiver's
roots grow downward, 2 metres (7 ft) to 4 metres (13 ft) in
The vetiver bunch grass has a gregarious habit and grows in tufts.
Shoots growing from the underground crown make the plant frost and
wildfire resistant, and allow it to survive heavy grazing pressure.
The leaves can become up to 300 centimetres (10 ft) long and 8
millimetres (0.3 in) wide. The panicles are 15 centimetres
(6 in) to 30 centimetres (12 in) long and have whorled, 25
millimetres (1 in) to 50 millimetres (2 in) long
branches. The spikelets are in pairs, and there are three stamens.
The plant stems are erect and stiff. They can survive deep water flow.
Under clear water, the plant can survive up to two months.
The root system of vetiver is finely structured and very strong. It
can grow 3 metres (10 ft) to 4 metres (13 ft) deep within
the first year. Vetiver has neither stolons nor rhizomes. Because of
all these characteristics, the vetiver plant is highly
drought-tolerant and can help to protect soil against sheet erosion.
In case of sediment deposition, new roots can grow out of buried
Though it originates in India, C. zizanioides is widely cultivated in
tropical regions. The major vetiver producers include Haiti, India,
Indonesia, and Réunion.
The most commonly used commercial genotypes of vetiver are sterile (do
not produce fertile seeds), and because vetiver propagates itself by
small offsets instead of underground stolons, these genotypes are
noninvasive and can easily be controlled by cultivation of the soil at
the boundary of the hedge. However, care must be taken, because
fertile genotypes of vetiver have become invasive.
Almost all vetiver grown worldwide is vegetatively propagated,
bioengineering has shown them as essentially the same nonfertile
cultigen by DNA profiling. In the
United States the cultivar is named
'Sunshine,' after the town of Sunshine, Louisiana.
Vetiver grass is grown for many purposes. The plant helps to stabilise
soil and protects it against erosion, but it can also protect fields
against pests and weeds. Vetiver has favourable qualities for animal
feed. From the roots, oil is extracted and used for cosmetics,
aromatherapy, herbal skincare and ayurvedic soap. Due to its fibrous
properties, the plant can also be used for handicrafts, ropes and
Vetiver has been used to produce perfumes, creams and soaps. It is
used for its antiseptic properties to treat acne and sores.
Soil and water conservation
Vetiver roots on sale
Several aspects of vetiver make it an excellent erosion control plant
in warmer climates. Vetiver's roots grow almost exclusively downward,
2 metres (7 ft) to 4 metres (13 ft), which is deeper than
some tree roots. This makes vetiver an excellent stabilizing hedge
for stream banks, terraces and rice paddies, and protects soil from
sheet erosion. The roots bind to the soil, therefore it can not
dislodge. Vetiver has been used to stabilize railway
cuttings/embankments in geologically challenging situations in an
attempt to prevent mudslides and rockfalls, such as the Konkan railway
in western India. The plant also penetrates and loosens compacted
The Vetiver system, a technology of soil conservation and water
quality management, is based on the use of the vetiver plant.
Runoff mitigation and water conservation
The close-growing culms help to block surface water runoff . It slows
the water flow and increases the amount absorbed by the soil
(infiltration). It can withstand water velocity up to 5 metres per
second (16 ft/s).
Vetiver mulch increases water infiltration and reduces evaporation,
thus protects soil moisture under hot and dry conditions. The mulch
also protects against splash erosion.
In west African regions, such as Mali and Senegal, vetiver roots were
traditionally used to reduce bacteria proliferation in water jugs and
Crop protection and pest repellent
Vetiver can be used for crop protection. It attracts the stem borer
(Chilo partellus), which lay their eggs preferentially on vetiver. Due
to the hairy architecture of vetiver, the larvae can not move on the
leaves, fall to the ground and die.
Vetiver's essential oil has anti-fungal properties against Rhizoctonia
As a mulch, vetiver is used for weed control in coffee, cocoa and tea
plantations. It builds a barrier in the form of a thick mat. When the
mulch breaks down, soil organic matter is built up and additional crop
nutrients become available.
Vetiver as a termite repellent
Vetiver extracts can repel termites. However, vetiver grass
alone, unlike its extracts, cannot be used to repel termites. Unless
the roots are damaged, the anti-termite chemicals, such as nootkatone,
are not released.
The leaves of vetiver are a useful byproduct to feed cattle, goats,
sheep and horses. The nutritional content depends on season, growth
stage and soil fertility. Under most climates, nutritional values
and yields are best if vetiver is cut every 1–3 months.
Food and flavorings
Vetiver (Khus) is also used as a flavoring agent, usually as khus
syrup. Khus syrup is made by adding khus essence to sugar, water and
citric acid syrup. Khus essence is a dark green thick syrup made from
the roots. It has a woody taste and a scent characteristic of khus.
The syrup is used to flavor milkshakes and yogurt drinks like lassi,
but can be used in ice creams, mixed beverages such as Shirley Temples
and as a dessert topping. Khus syrup does not need to be refrigerated,
although khus flavored products may need to be.
Perfumery and aromatherapy
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides=
Chrysopogon zizanioides) essential oil
in a clear glass vial
Vetiver is mainly cultivated for the fragrant essential oil distilled
from its roots. In perfumery, the older French spelling, vetyver, is
often used. Worldwide production is estimated at about 250 tons per
annum. Due to its excellent fixative properties, vetiver is used
widely in perfumes. It is contained in 90% of all western perfumes.
Vetiver is a more common ingredient in fragrances for men; some
notable examples include Dior's Eau Sauvage,
Guerlain Vétiver, M.
Vétiver by Une Nuit à Bali, Zizan by Ormonde Jayne and Vétiver by
L'Occitane en Provence.
Indonesia, China, and
Haiti are major producers. Vetiver
processing was introduced to
Haiti in the 1940s by Frenchman Lucien
Ganot. In 1958, Franck Léger established a plant on the grounds
of his father Demetrius Léger's alcohol distillery. The plant was
taken over in 1984 by Franck's son, Pierre Léger, who expanded the
size of the plant to 44 atmospheric stills, each built to handle one
metric ton of vetiver roots. Total production increased in ten years
from 20 to 60 tonnes annually, making it the largest producer in the
world. The plant extracts vetiver oil by steam distillation.
Another major operation in the field is the one owned by the Boucard
Réunion is considered to produce the highest quality vetiver
oil called "bourbon vetiver" with the next favorable being
then Java.
The United States, Europe, India, and
Japan are the main consumers.
Vetiver oil or khus oil is a complex oil, containing over 100
identified components, typically:
Structure of α-vetivone, the main fragrant component of the oil of
Structure of khusimol, another fragrant component of the oil of
Structure of β-vetivone, another fragrant component of the oil of
The oil is amber brown and viscous. Its odor is described as deep,
sweet, woody, smoky, earthy, amber and balsam. The best quality oil is
obtained from 18- to 24-month-old roots. The roots are dug up,
cleaned, and then dried. Before distillation, the roots are chopped
and soaked in water. The distillation process can take up to 24 hours.
After the distillate separates into the essential oil and hydrosol,
the oil is skimmed off and allowed to age for a few months to allow
some undesirable notes forming during distillation to dissipate. Like
patchouli and sandalwood essential oils, vetiver's odor develops and
improves with aging. The oil's characteristics can vary significantly
depending on where the grass is grown and the climate and soil
conditions. The oil distilled in
Réunion has a more floral
quality and is considered of higher quality than the smokier oil from
Java. In north India, oil is distilled from wild-growing vetiver. This
oil is known as khus or khas, and in
India is considered superior to
the oil obtained from the cultivated variety. It is rarely found in
commerce outside of India, as most of it is consumed within the
Vetiver has been used in traditional medicine in South Asia (India,
Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand),
and West Africa.
Old Tamil literature mentions the use of vetiver for medical purposes.
In the Indian Subcontinent, khus (vetiver roots) is often used to
replace the straw or wood shaving pads in evaporative coolers. When
cool water runs for months over wood shavings in evaporative cooler
padding, they tend to accumulate algae, bacteria and other
microorganisms. This causes the cooler to emit a fishy or seaweed
smell. Vetiver root padding counteracts this odor. A cheaper
alternative is to add vetiver cooler perfume or even pure khus attar
to the tank. Another advantage is that vetiver padding does not catch
fire as easily as dry wood shavings.
Mats made by weaving vetiver roots and binding them with ropes or
cords are used in
India to cool rooms in a house during summer. The
mats are typically hung in a doorway and kept moist by spraying with
water periodically; they cool the passing air, as well as emitting a
In the hot summer months in India, sometimes a muslin sachet of
vetiver roots is tossed into the earthen pot that keeps a household's
drinking water cool. Like a bouquet garni, the bundle lends
distinctive flavor and aroma to the water. Khus-scented syrups are
also sold.
A recent study found the plant is capable of growing in
fuel-contaminated soil. In addition, the study discovered the plant is
also able to clean the soil, so in the end, it is almost
Vetiver grass is used as roof thatch (it lasts longer than other
materials), mud brick-making for housing construction (such bricks
have lower thermal conductivity), strings and ropes and ornamentals
(for the light purple flowers).
Garlands made of vetiver grass are used to adorn the murti of Lord
Nataraja (Shiva) in Hindu temples. It is a favourite offering to
Vetiver oil has been used in an effort to track where mosquitoes live
during dry seasons in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mosquitoes were tagged with
strings soaked in vetiver oil then released. Dogs trained to track the
scent, not native to Africa, found the marked mosquitoes in such
places as holes in trees and in old termite mounds.
Sandy loam soils are preferred.
Clay loam is acceptable, but clay is
Slightly sloping land avoids waterlogging in case of overwatering. A
flat site is acceptable, but watering must be monitored to avoid
waterlogging, which stunts the growth of young plants. Mature vetiver,
however, thrives under waterlogged conditions.
It absorbs dissolved nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and
is tolerant to sodicity, magnesium, aluminium and manganese.
Accepts soil pH from 3.3 to 12.5 (in another publication,
Tolerant to salinity
Shading affects vetiver growth (C4 plant), but partial shading is
It is tolerant to temperatures from −15 °C (5 °F) to
55 °C (131 °F), depending on growing region. The optimal
soil temperature for root growth is 25 °C (77 °F). Root
dormancy occurs under a temperature of 5 °C (41 °F). Shoot
growth is affected earlier; at 13 °C (55 °F), shoot growth
is minimal, but root growth is continued at a rate of 12.6 centimetres
(5 in) per day. Under frosty conditions, shoots become dormant
and purple, or even die, but the underground growing points survive
and can regrow quickly if conditions improve.
It is tolerant to drought (because of its deep roots), flood, and
submergence; annual precipitation of 64 centimetres (2 ft) to 410
centimetres (13 ft) is tolerated, but it has to be at least 22.5
centimetres (9 in) 
Vetiver is planted in long, straight rows across the slope for easy
mechanical harvesting. The soil should be wet.
Trenches are 15
centimetres (6 in) to 20 centimetres (8 in) deep. A
modified seedling planter or mechanical transplanter can plant large
numbers of vetiver slips in the nursery. Flowering and nonflowering
varieties are used for cultivation. Sandy loam nursery beds ensure
easy harvest and minimal damage to plant crowns and roots. Open space
is recommended, because shading slows growth.
Overhead irrigation is recommended for the first few months after
planting. More mature plants prefer flood irrigation.
Weed control may
be needed during establishment phase, by using atrazine after
To control termites that attack dead material, hexachlorobenzene, also
known as benzene hexachloride-BCH, can be applied to the vetiver
hedge. Brown spot seems to have no effect on vetiver growth. Black
India is vetiver-specific and does not cross-infect other
plants. In China, stemborers (Chilo spp.) have been recognised, but
they seem to die once they get into the stems. Further, vetiver is
affected by Didymella andropogonis on leaves, Didymosphaeria
andropogonis on dead culms,
Lulworthia medusa on culms and
Ophiosphaerella herpotricha. Only in Malaysia, whiteflies seem to be a
problem. Pest management is done by using insecticides and by
appropriate cultural management: hedges are cut to 3 cm above
ground at the end of the growing season. In general, vetiver is
tolerant to herbicides and pesticides.
Harvest of mature plants is performed mechanically or manually. A
machine uproots the mature stock 20 centimetres (8 in) to 25
centimetres (10 in) below ground. To avoid damaging the plant
crown, a single-blade mouldboard plough or a disc plough with special
adjustment is used.
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Plant Species". Retrieved May
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Veldkamp, J. F. (1999). "A revision of
Chrysopogon Trin., including
Vetiveria Bory (Poaceae) in Thailand and Malesia with notes on some
other species from Africa and Australia". Austrobaileya. 5:
Other Uses and Utilization of Vetiver: Vetiver
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INC, 1990), 178–181, cited in Salvatore Battaglia, The Complete
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The Vetiver Network International
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Elsevier/Mosby. ISBN 0-7234-3410-7. Contains a detailed
Chrysopogon zizanioides (Ushira), as well as a discussion
of health benefits and usage in clinical practice. online
Plant List: kew-405169