PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata)

Sweetgrass has a long history of enriching many humans’ lives. Various North American Indigenous Peoples braided, dried it, and burned it as a purifying and clarifying incense. It flavors a famous Polish Vodka. It is also known as Bison Grass and is the favorite food of North American Bison grazing across the Great Plains. Sweetgrass was popular as a lawn grass in the early 20th century as it is very tough and requires little water or care. Check out Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’. If you haven’t already experienced it, her book might blow your mind wide open and is a good guide for experiencing and relating to all aspects of our non-human world.

Sweetgrass is a fairly anonymous green grass. If left uncut, it resembles long lawn grass. It flowers in late spring with light, airy, brown inflorescences that dance above the leaves. Leaves can get about 12-16 inches long. We like to grow it in a large pot to keep it contained. It spreads aggressively which is great if you want a lawn of it (imagine the heavenly scent when you mow!). Speaking of scent, it tastes and smells like a complicated mix of nutty vanilla, with floral hints, and an overtone of just-mown-grass. It’s awesome burned as incense. It will grow in full to part sun and doesn’t need a ton of water in summer.