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Hierochloe odorata (sweet grass)

Hierochloe odorata is an aromatic grass native to Europe, Asia and North America, which has been used for incense and basketry by Native Americans.
Image of Hierochloe odorata taken in Poland

Hierochloe odorata, in Swinoujscie, NW Poland (Photo: Licensed under CC BY 3.0)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Hierochloe odorata (L.) P.Beauv.

Common name: 

sweet grass, holy grass, vanilla sweetgrass

Conservation status: 

Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria, but considered to be rare in Britain.


Wetlands, mountain slopes, floodplains, marshes and roadsides.

Key Uses: 

Strewn on church floors, burned as incense, basketry, local medicine, distilled beverages, ceremonial.

Known hazards: 

See below.


Genus: Hierochloe

About this species

Hierochloe odorata is a member of the grass family (Poaceae). It is also known by the alternative name Anthoxanthum nitens, as used in the Flora of China and Flora of North America. The common name, sweet grass, refers to the fragrance emitted when fresh plants are crushed or burned to release the vanilla-scented compound coumarin, which it contains. The common name holy grass relates to its use in church festivals by early Europeans.


Anthoxanthum nitens (Weber) Y. Schouten & Veldk.


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