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Hierochloe odorata - (L.)P.Beauv.

Common Name Holy Grass
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards The plant contains coumarin, this is toxic if taken internally[169] and is sometimes considered to be carcinogenic[222].
Habitats Wet banks in only a few sites in Scotland[17].
Range Central and northern Europe, including Britain, to N. Asia and N. America.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Hierochloe odorata Holy Grass

Hierochloe odorata Holy Grass


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Hierochloe odorata is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from April to May. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


H. borealis.

Plant Habitats

 Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses: Colouring  Condiment

Seed - cooked[105]. Small and fiddly to use. It almost certainly does not contain coumarin and should be safe to use. An essential oil from the leaves is used as a food flavouring in sweets and soft drinks. It has a strong vanilla-like flavour[183]. The leaves are added to vodka as a flavouring[238]. The plant is said to be used as a colouring agent[183] but no more details are given.

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.
Birthing aid  Febrifuge  Skin  VD

A tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment of fevers, coughs, sore throats, chafing and venereal infections[222, 257]. It is also used to stop vaginal bleeding and to expel afterbirth[222]. The stems can be soaked in water and used to treat windburn and chapping and as an eyewash[257]. Some caution is advised when using this plant internally, see the notes above on toxicity[222]. The leaves are harvested in the summer and dried for later use[238]. Smoke from the burning leaves has been inhaled in the treatment of colds[257].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Hair  Incense  Repellent  Soil stabilization  Strewing  Stuffing

The dried leaves are used as an incense[46, 61, 99], they were formerly also used as a strewing herb[1, 46, 238] and have been used as a stuffing in pillows and mattresses[257]. They have also been used as an insect repellent in the clothes cupboard where they impart a nice smell to the clothes[99, 238]. The leaves are used to make aromatic baskets[46, 61, 99, 169, 171]. The wet leaves can be sewn together, dried until they are tight and then resin used over the stitches to make a waterproof container[257]. The leaves can be soaked in water to make a tonic hair wash[257]. An essential oil distilled from the leaves is used in perfumery where it acts as an excitant and fixative for other aromas[238]. The plant has a very aggressive root system and has been planted to stabilize banks[74].

Special Uses

Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers a damp position in a rich soil but succeeds in most soils including quite dry conditions[162]. Grows best in a sunny position[238]. The plants have a running root system and can spread aggressively when grown in suitable conditions[74]. The plant, as it dries, emits a powerful scent of newly mown hay[245].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow spring in situ and only just cover the seed[162]. Germination usually takes place within 2 weeks. If the seed is in short supply it can be sown in the cold frame in the spring. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in early summer. Division in spring or summer[162]. Very simple, virtually any part of the root will regrow to make a new plant[K].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

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

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.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Taliessin   Sun Dec 25 2005

¯ubrówka, Turówka Wonna, Hierochloe Odorata, Zebrovka, Sweet Grass, Seneca Grass, Holy Grass, Vanilla Grass

Steven Williams   Fri May 26 2006

I have distilled Sweet grass for three years now. It produces a beautiful hydrosol but does not yield any essential oil. I question the statement under Edible Uses that the essential oil is used for flavouring. Where can I obtain this essential oil if it does exist? I suspect it is a synthetic oil or an essential oil from another plant like Anthoxanthum odoratum. Please inform me if you know of any sources of Sweet grass oil.

Ann Gray   Fri Nov 17 2006

where can i obtain seeds in the eu to grow this plant

Ajna Fern. Plants For A Future   Mon Nov 20 2006

the following seed company has supplied seeds J.l.Hudson, seedsman http://jlhudsonseeds.net/index.htm

Suzanne Wiesenberg   Sun Nov 19 2006

hi looking for sweet grass oil as well... have you found any?

Ajna Fern. Plants For A Future.   Mon Nov 20 2006

we ran a search on the internet for essential oil Hierochloe, and came up with a number of sites selling this oil

irene garden   Tue Dec 19 2006

pure and wild chemical free oil sweetgrass oil available from south dakota

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