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What is sweetgrass

What is sweetgrass

What is sweetgrass

Sweetgrass is a fragrant grass with long, satiny leaves. Also known as vanillagrass, mannagrass and holy grass, it is well known to many Indigenous people in Canada and the United States as a material for baskets, as well as a scent, medicine and smudge. Two closely related species are native Canada: common sweetgrass (Hierochloë hirta subspecies arctica) and alpine sweetgrass (H. alpina). As a widely used and revered sacred plant, sweetgrass is still harvested today, and continues to play an important role in Indigenous cultures.

Sweetgrass

Sweetgrass is a fragrant grass with long, satiny leaves. Also known as vanillagrass, mannagrass and holy grass, it is well known to many Indigenous people in Canada and the United States as a material for baskets, as well as a scent, medicine and smudge. Two closely related species are native Canada: common sweetgrass (Hierochloë hirta subspecies arctica) and alpine sweetgrass (H. alpina). As a widely used and revered sacred plant, sweetgrass is still harvested today, and continues to play an important role in Indigenous cultures.Sweetgrass is a perennial grass, in the family Poaceae. Usually placed in the genus Hierochloë, it is sometimes included within the genus Anthoxanthum. It has often been treated as one species, Hierochloë odorata, but currently taxonomists recognize up to four species, two of which grow in Canada: common sweetgrass (Hierochloë hirta subspecies arctica) and alpine sweetgrass (H. alpina).

The flat, bright green leaves can grow up to half a meter long or more, and have a distinctively reddish colour at their base. The flowers are small and greenish, and grow in branching clusters at the top of slender, upright stalks. The seeds are small and often infertile, and rarely germinate to create new plants. Sweetgrass’s most common means of reproduction comes from its creeping, underground stems. These stems, known as rhizomes, grow horizontally under the earth, creating dense patches of grass that can be manually divided up to produce new plants.Sweetgrass (Hierochloë) thrives in diverse habitats and is circumpolar in distribution. Members of the genus are native to northern Eurasia, Greenland, Iceland, Canada and the United States (except in the south central and southeastern regions). In Canada, common sweetgrass (Hieroch

loë hirta subsp. arctica) grows near rivers, lake edges, and wet meadows, often forming dense patches, from sea level to subalpine zones. Alpine sweetgrass (Hierochloë alpina) grows near sea level in the Arctic, and in meadows and on rocky slopes in subalpine and alpine areas in other parts of Canada, especially in the Pacific Coastal and Rocky Mountains. (Source: www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca)

 

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