Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Anthoxanthum - Vernal/Vanilla Grass

Family: Poaceae (Grass) [E-flora]

"Annual, perennial herb, cespitose, sometimes rhizomatous. Stem: ascending to erect, 1–10 dm. Leaf: cauline or mostly basal, fragrant; auricles present or not; ligule membranous; blade flat or rolled, glabrous or hairy. Inflorescence: panicle- or spike-like. Spikelet: subsessile, laterally compressed; glumes > florets, = or not, tip acute, 1- or 3-veined; florets 3, lower 2 sterile or staminate, upper bisexual, breaking apart above glumes, florets falling as 1 unit; lemma of lower florets > upper floret, tip 2-forked or -lobed, hairy, 3-veined, awned at or below middle or awn 0; fertile lemma 3–7-veined, glabrous or hairy, awn 0; palea 0 in lower florets, present and < lemma in fertile floret, 1-veined.
about 50 species: temperate Eurasia, America, Africa, Oceania, subantarctic. (Greek: flower + yellow, referring to golden color of mature inflorescence) [Allred & Barkworth 2003 FNANM 25:758–764] As treated here, the genus including Hierochloe, which is readily distinguishable in North America, but not in Asia and southern hemisphere. Fresh leaves of some species used for fragrance in churches on saints' days and as incense by Native Americans. Anthoxanthum hirtum (Schrank) Y. Schouten & Veldcamp reported from northern California; records lacking." [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Anthoxanthum hirtum - hairy sweetgrass (range not confirmed) [E-flora]
  2. Anthoxanthum odoratum - sweet vernalgrass [E-flora]


  1. James P. Smith, Jr, 2012. Anthoxanthum odoratum, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Oct 14 2013.

Anthoxanthum hirtum - hairy sweetgrass

Status: Native [E-flora]


Anthoxanthum odoratum - sweet vernalgrass

"Anthoxanthum odoratum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 0.3 m (1ft).
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from April to June, and the seeds ripen from May to July. 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: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.
" [PFAF]

General: "Perennial, tufted grass from fibrous roots; stems hollow, 30-60 cm tall." [IFBC-E-flora]

Habitat / Range: "Mesic to dry lawns, fields, waste areas, rock outcrops and meadows in the lowland zone; common on S Vancouver Island, rare N to the Queen Charlotte Islands; introduced from Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Exotic [E-flora]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


Sweet Vernal grass – Anthoxanthum odoratum

Part: Greens Per 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal) - Ash (g) 2.2 Potassium (mg) -
Water (g) - Thiamine (mg) - Magnesium (mg) 60
Protein (g) 46 Riboflavin (mg) - Calcium (mg) 140
Fat (g) - Niacin (mg) - Phosphorus (mg) 90
Carbohydrate (g) - Vitamin C (mg) - Sodium (mg) -
Crude Fiber (g) 3.9 Vitamin A (RE) 376 Iron (mg) 13
Zinc (mg) - Manganese (mg) 1.7 Copper (mg) 0.3


Part: Greens (Dry) Per 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal) - Ash (g) - Potassium (mg) 1570
Water (g) - Thiamine (mg) - Magnesium (mg) 200
Protein (g) 10.4 Riboflavin (mg) - Calcium (mg) 630
Fat (g) - Niacin (mg) - Phosphorus (mg) 252
Carbohydrate (g) - Vitamin C (mg) - Sodium (mg) 240
Crude Fiber (g) - Vitamin A (RE) - Iron (mg) 51.8
Zinc (mg) 2.7 Manganese (mg) 15.8 Copper (mg) 0.3

Cultivation & Propagation
"Succeeds in most soils[200]. Dislikes shade. This is one of the earliest grasses to flower in the year, it produces a lot of pollen and is a major irritant to people who suffer from hay fever[4]. The dried plant releases a strong and persistent fragrance with a refreshing pungent smell that is difficult to describe but is somewhat like newly-mown hay[245]." [PFAF]

"Seed - sow April in situ, only just covering the seed. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 3 weeks[134]. Division in spring. Very easy, it can be done successfully at almost any time of the year, though it is best to pot up the divisions in a cold frame if you are doing it outside the growing season." [PFAF]

Anthoxanthum odoratum var. puelii (Lecoq & Lamotte) Coss. & Durieu
Anthoxanthum puelii Lecoq & LaMotte . [E-flora]


  1., Accessed April 9, 2015
  2., Accessed Auguest 11, 2020

Page last modified on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 1:00 AM