What is Vetiver Grass?
Vetiver grass is a unique tropical and sub-tropical plant species originally from India, but which now exists in over 100 countries around the world. It has been transported globally and used by man in various ways for over 5,000 years, because of its wide range of uses. This originated primarily with the use of sweet scented vetiver roots for the production of essential oils, and now today for perfumes.
However, most importantly today, it is recognized as a powerful bioengineering tool, where due to many of its unique characteristics it can be used to tackle a wide range of soil and water-related challenges. Its dense and fibrous root system can extend to 10 feet (3 m) deep in the first 2 years, making it a powerful tool to assist with slope stabilization, erosion control, soil and water conservation, rainfall runoff management and flood mitigation, and the general rehabilitation of degraded lands. It is also a proven powerful phytoremediator, meaning that it can absorb a wide range of contaminants including coliforms and heavy metals, and has thus also been used in many countries and environments for the treatment and remediation of contaminated waters and lands.
Vetiver Grass has been proven to have a tensile strength between 5-10 times that of most other grasses, and unlike most grasses, it does not form a horizontal mat of roots; rather, the roots grow almost exclusively downward and are dense and fibrous which causes them to interlock with each other, holding the soil in place like an underground curtain or ‘retaining wall’. As a species it can also withstand a wide range of temperatures from 0°C to 50°C, is certified non-invasive by the USDA, and can survive complete burning by wild-fires.
Because of vetiver’s capacity to absorb large amounts of water, along with the binding nature of its root system, the plants create an overall ‘negative pore pressure’ in soils, further reducing risk of failure and improving land stability. When implemented correctly according to the prescribed methods of The Vetiver System (VS), notable results and functionality can be reached within four (4) – six (6) months, though maximum stability and functionality occur when the vetiver plants reach maturity at one (1) to two (2) years. The leaves grow typically about 1 metre or 3 feet high and are long, thin and rather rigid, and slightly rough/sharp on the edges. Vetiver thrives best in a hot and humid climate though can withstand temporary low temperatures, and is sensitive to shade, needing a lot of sunlight for optimum growth.
Short introductory video to Vetiver Grass and it’s wide range of uses