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Cymbopogon citratus - (DC. Ex Nees) Stapf

Common Name Lemon Grass, Citronella grass
Family Poaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Habitats Not known in a wild situation.
Range A tropical plant, not known in the wild, but probably originating in Sri Lanka or Malaysia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Cymbopogon citratus Lemon Grass, Citronella grass

Cymbopogon citratus Lemon Grass, Citronella grass
Forest Starr & Kim Starr http://www.starrenvironmental.com/


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Lemon grass or Cymbopogon citratus is a tropical, evergreen, perennial grass that is aromatic and grows up to 1.5 m tall. It is also known as tanglad or sereh in the Philippines and Indonesia where it is profusely cultivated for its fragrant leaves that are used in cooking and brewing tea. The heart of the young shoots is cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The leaves and the essential oil are used in traditional medicine to relieve spasms and increase perspiration. It is also used to treat digestive ailments, arthritis pains, and various skin conditions. The essential oil can also be used in perfumery and making cosmetics and soaps. Lemon grass is used in swarm traps to attract swarms. It also has an ability to repel stable fly and is useful for soil improvement and erosion control. It is grown from division of established clumps.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Cymbopogon citratus is an evergreen Perennial growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Andropogon cerifer Hack. Andropogon ceriferus Hack. Andropogon citratus DC. Andropogon citratus DC.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil  Shoots  Stem
Edible Uses: Oil

The heart of the young shoots is eaten as a vegetable with rice[ 301 ]. The basal portions of the leafy shoots have a delicious lemon-like aroma and are used as a flavouring in soups, sauces and curries[ 301 , K ]. Older leaves can be cooked with other foods in order to impart their lemon-like flavour. They are removed before serving[ 301 ]. A refreshing tea can be brewed from the leaves[ 301 ]. It can be served hot or cold[ 301 ]. It can be sweetened with sugar[ 521 ]. The essential oil is used as a flavouring in the food industry in soft drinks and various foods[ 238 , 418 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Lemongrass was one of the herbs that was transported along the spice route from Asia to Europe. Lemon grass is a bitter, aromatic, cooling herb that increases perspiration and relieves spasms[ 238 ]. The essential oil obtained from the plant is an effective antifungal and antibacterial[ 238 ]. The essential oil contains about 70% citral, plus citronellal - both of these are markedly sedative[ 254 ]. Internally, the plant is used principally as a tea in the treatment of digestive problems, where it relaxes the muscles of the stomach and gut, relieving cramping pains and flatulence[ 254 ]. It is particularly useful for children, for whom it is also used to treat minor feverish illnesses[ 238 , 254 ]. Externally, especially in the form of the extracted essential oil, the plant is a very effective treatment for a range of conditions including athlete's foot, ringworm, lice and scabies[ 238 ]. It is also applied to ease the pain of arthritic joints[ 254 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Landscape Uses: Border, Container, Erosion control, Ground cover, Massing, Specimen. Agroforestry Uses: A good soil conditioner in worn out land. The plants quickly produce a bulk of organic material which soon rots down, attracting worms and other beneficial creatures and quickly enriching the soil[ 296 ]. A row of lemongrass plants can be used as a divider in the garden - it can help to contain more invasive plants such as sweet potato, and also as a barrier to prevent weeds growing into the garden[ 296 ]. The grass is useful for soil improvement and erosion control[ 418 ].. Other Uses An essential oil obtained from the plant is used in perfumery, scenting soaps, hair oils, cosmetics and as an insect repellent[ 238 , 254 , 418 ]. It is also used in the synthesis of vitamin A[ 418 ]. It is cytotoxic, which could be exploited for pesticidal or chemotherapeutic agents. It has insecticidal, larvicidal, nematicidal, pro-oxidative, repellent activity and is a vasorelaxant.

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the tropics and subtropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,400 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 24 - 30°c, but can tolerate 18 - 34°c[ 418 ]. It can be killed by temperatures of 10°c or lower[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 3,000mm, but tolerates 700 - 4,200mm[ 418 ]. Prefers a moisture-retentive soil in full sun[ 200 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 5.8, tolerating 4.3 - 7.3[ 418 ]. Harvesting begins when the crop is 120 - 240 days old, and the plant is subsequently harvested every 90 - 120 days[ 418 ]. The plant has an economical life of 4 years[ 418 ]. Fresh grass yields 0.2 - 0.4% oil, with an average yield of 50 - 120 kilos of oil/ha per annum. Yield of foliage is higher on fertile heavy soils, but under these conditions the oil usually has a lower citral content[ 418 ] The plant seldom flowers[ 418 ]. Lemongrass should be stored separately from other foods, or should be well wrapped, otherwise its strong scent will taint the other foods[ 200 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed. Division of established clumps. This is best done annually or they can become too crowded and suffer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Lemon grass or Cymbopogon citratus. Also know as: citronella grass, citron grass; fever grass; lemongrass; West Indian lemongrass. Spanish: hierba limon; pasto lim—n; sontol; te limon; zacate de lim—n; zacate dete; zacate lim—n. French: citronelle; herbe citron; verveine des Indes. Chinese: xiang mao. Brazil: cana-cidreira; cana-lim‹o; capim-cidr—; capim-santo; erva-cidreira; patchuli-falso; yerbaluisa. Germany: Lemongras; Zitronellgras; Zitronengras. India: bhustarah; gandhabene; gandhatran; injippullu; khavi; lilacha; majjigehallu; nimmagaddi; vasanapullu. Indonesia: sereh. Italy: citronella. Myanmar: sabalin. Peru: yerba Luisa. Saint Lucia: sitonnl. Sri Lanka: sereh. Vietnam: sa chanh.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Asia, Africa, America, Europe and Oceania, and is widely distributed in China, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, Cameroon, Congo, Egypt, Nigeria, North and Central America, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Italy and Papua New Guinea

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Some indication it has been invasive in Saint Lucia, Caribbean.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(DC. Ex Nees) Stapf

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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