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Anthoxanthum odoratum

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Anthoxanthum odoratum
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Pooideae
Genus: Anthoxanthum
A. odoratum
Binomial name
Anthoxanthum odoratum

Anthoxanthum odoratum is a short-lived perennial grass, commonly known as sweet vernal grass, that is native to acidic grassland in Eurasia and northern Africa.[1][2] It is grown as a lawn grass and a house plant, due to its sweet scent, and can also be found on unimproved pastures and meadows. The specific epithet odoratum is Latin for 'odorous'.



Anthoxanthum odaoratum is a short-lived perennial grass that grows in tufts with stems up to 70 cm (28 in) tall. The leaves are short and broad, 3–5 mm (0.12–0.20 in) wide, and glabrous to loosely hairy.[3]: 306  It flowers in late spring and early summer, i.e. quite early in the season, with flower spikes of 4–6 centimetres (1.6–2.4 in) long and crowded spikelets of 6–10 mm (0.24–0.39 in), oblong shaped, which can be quite dark when young. The lower lemmas have projecting awns. The ligules are quite long, up to 5 mm (0.20 in), blunt, with hairy fringes around the side.

The scent is particularly strong when dried, and is due to coumarin, a glycoside, and benzoic acid – it smells like fresh hay with a hint of vanilla. The seed head is bright yellow in color.[4]

Anthoxanthum odoratum is experiencing parapatric speciation in areas of mine contamination.[5][6]



Anthoxanthum odoratum is native to Europe and temperate parts of Asia, but is widely introduced and naturalised so that distribution is now Circumpolar Wide-temperate.[7] It is ubiquitous at the 10 km square level in Britain.[7]



It is grown by scattering seed on tilled ground in the spring through fall, germinating in 4 to 5 days. It prefers sandy loam and acidic conditions (a low pH). As an agricultural grass it has a low yield, but can grow on land too acidic for other grasses.



  1. ^ "Anthoxanthum odoratum L. | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science".
  2. ^ "Anthoxanthum odoratum". Online Atlas of the British and Irish flora. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  3. ^ Cope, Tom; Gray, Alan (2009). Grasses of the British Isles, BSBI Handbook N0. 13. London: Botanical Society of the British Isles (now Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland). ISBN 978-0-901158-420.
  4. ^ BSBI Description Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 10 December 2010.
  5. ^ "Parapatric speciation". University of California Berkeley. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  6. ^ Janis Antonovics (2006), "Evolution in closely adjacent plant populations X: long-term persistence of prereproductive isolation at a mine boundary", Heredity, 97 (1): 33–37, doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6800835, PMID 16639420, S2CID 12291411
  7. ^ a b "Anthoxanthum odoratum". Online atlas of the British and Irish flora. Biological Records Centre and Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 9 October 2021.

Further reading