Redwood City Seed Company,
Box 361, Redwood City, CA 94064.
Order by phone 650-325-7333 or FAX (650) 325-4056.
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Get a printed copy of our catalog in the
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Contents - links to chapters within this web page --
--Copyright and trademark notice
--Description and History
--The Mystery of the Sweetgrass on two continents
--Checklist for the best sweetgrass
--Planting - our live sweetgrass root-plugs
--Redwood sweetgrass planter
--Large scale planting
--Check your soil structure
--Reference mineral levels
--Harvesting, cutting vs. pulling
--Making sachets, essential oils and soaps
--Winter hardy, to the Arctic Circle
--Nine things that can hurt sweetgrass plants
--Long-lived, maybe oldest plants on the planet?
--How to visually tell sweetgrass from other grasses
--Other key suggestions for success
--Finding and managing an already existing wild stand
--Sweetgrass Science corner
--Sweetgrass Ethnobotanical corner
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TRADEMARK NOTICE: Please note that "Supershamanistic" is a trademark exclusively owned by the Redwood City Seed Company, and the purchase of plants from our company, does not give any permission for buyers, to commercially utilize the terms "Super" or "Supershamanistic" or any of our descriptive information, or use of any of our growing or other information or images, without a written license agreement, and the payment of an annual license fee.
Sweetgrass or Sweet Grass (Hierochlöe odorata)
Seed stalk, life-size, very important for positive identification.
DESCRIPTION & HISTORY of SWEETGRASS is a winter-hardy aromatic perennial grass, normally found growing in rich, moist soil from Alaska to Newfoundland in full sun, and is also native to northern Europe.
The peoples of both Europe and North America independently consider this plant sacred and sweetgrass plays an important part in sacred ceremonies on both continents. The leaves are dried and made into braids and burned as a vanilla-scented incense, and used to make baskets which retain the vanilla-like scent for many years. Sweetgrass is a high-yielding grass, when fertilized, cultivated and managed, can produce up to 40,000 dried braids per acre.
Sweetgrass is also called Bison grass and zubrowka,
plus there are many different names in the various native American
languages, like we'nuskwûn in Menomini, or the
Mamaceqtaw language from Wisconsin and Michigan (from Ethnobotany
of the Menomini by H.H.Smith) and Wekusko by Canadian indigenous
people. (>>>see the Seven
Questions about sweetgrass, at the end of this web
OTHER GRASSES CALLED "SWEETGRASS" -- Please Note: There are several other species of grass that have been called "Sweetgrass" including a South Carolina grass (Muhlenbergia filipes), that is also used to make baskets, plus a shorter European weedy-grass that was planted in hay fields to give the cut hay a vanilla scent, called sweet vernal grass.
Our Sweetgrass (Hierochlöe odorata) has a vanilla scent, and has the long leaves are used to make dried braids and used to weave into baskets.
Also, the map below shows that there are
other species of Sweetgrass, about 30 species of the Hierochlöe
Sweetgrass that grow around the world, even in the tropics
at high elevation, and on every continent including Antarctica.
This means that Sweetgrass as a plant genus must have evolved
during the time when all of the continents were together 100-300
million years ago. That makes the Genus Hierochloe "Living
fossils" and evidence of a time when all the continents were
Sweetgrass or Hierochlöe species around the world. (Data from Index Kewensis). Obviously the original ancestor of all of these sweetgrass species evolved when all of the continents were together as one, called Pangaea, about 100-300 million years ago.
Sweetgrass is very aromatic, and when dried can be placed in closets, drawers, armoires, or with stored clothing, to give your clothes a fresh scent. Replace every 1-2 months.
The Mystery of the Sweetgrass on two continents. Sweetgrass is what is called a "circumpolar" plant, which means it grows in both the North American and European continents around the Arctic circle.
---WORLD-WIDE SWEETGRASS LOCATION MAP and data, can be searched at the web site of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
There are at least two possibilities,
how sweetgrass got to North America:
(1.) plants spread across both continents when Eastern North America and Europe were joined as a single continent, or (2.) live plants were carried in boats in prehistoric times from northern Europe to North America up the Saint Lawrence river to the Great Lakes region. A study of the sweetgrass genetics in the future, could give us an answer to this mystery.
Since plants do not normally produce viable seeds, it could only occur on both continents by these three methods.
Possible route from Europe to North America for sweetgrass, 11,000-15,800 years ago. (Globe from graphicmaps.com, map from Global Biodiversity Information Facility, route arrows by Craig Dremann)
Perhaps sweetgrass arrived in North America 11,000-15,800 years ago from Europe, with the Clovis or Folsom peoples, first introduced sweetgrass to Newfoundland and then planted around the Great Lakes. Genetic mapping of the North American sweetgrass populations may help trace back the peoples moving across the Atlantic, bring their live sweetgrass plants with them.
DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America, Bryan Sykes book published in 2012, chapter four "The Mystery of Cluster X" writes that geneticists have found indications of the same movement of people from Europe to the Great Lakes area through the mtDNA sequences of the Ojibwe people.
Rosaria Scozzari et al. wrote about this discovery in 1997 in "mtDNA and Y chromosome-specific polymorphisms in modern Ojibwa: implications about the origin of their gene pool." in American Journal of Human Genetics 60 (1): 241-244, along with the M.D. Brown et al 1998 article, "mtDNA haplogroup X: an ancient link between Europe/Western Asia and North America?" in American Journal of Human Genetics 63 (6): 1852-1861, and also see other Google Scholar articles on the same topic of mtDNA haplogroup X).
That migration probably occurred when the northern Atlantic ocean was frozen solid during the Ice Ages, between 11,000 and 15,800 years ago, but perhaps the migration from Europe to the Great Lakes occurred as long ago as 36,000 years ago (Brown, 1998) from the human DNA evidence. And I am proposing that those people brought live sweetgrass plants with them, from Europe to North America, along with the Clovis spear points.
In any case, sweetgrass is the only sacred
plant shared by peoples of both Europe and North America,
and in Europe it is called Holy grass, and has dried leaves
have been strewn on the floors of churches. In North America,
sweetgrass is called "Hair of the Mother Earth" and
is one of the four sacred herbs, which includes sage (Artemisia
species and Salvia apiana), cedar and tobacco.
There's probably no truly "wild" sweetgrass populations in the world, because, most of the populations of the North American and European sweetgrass may have been "cultivated" and selected for the length of their leaves over the last 10,000+ years of human/sweetgrass interactions.
Of course there are wild stands growing in the wild,
but when you take a careful look at those plants, they may actually
be remnants of a "garden" within an ancient Native American
village site, still growing where they were originally planted
hundreds to thousands of years ago.
Sweetgrass plants have been selected by humans to be cut at least twice a year, otherwise the unusually long leaves can smother the plant. A similar form of human selection of another wild plant, to make a particular part of the plant grow unusually long, can be seen in the selection of the Saffron crocus, whose stigma is harvested for the spice "saffron." The saffron stigma is now so abnormally long, it hangs outside of the petals.
The other indicator that sweetgrass has had a close association
with humans, is that it has lost its ability to normally produce
viable seeds. Garlic and horseradish are like that, in that these
plants do not bother to produce any seeds, since humans have been
replanting them every year from roots or bulbs for thousands of
years. Plants that are reproduced by humans by plant parts like
roots or bulbs, instead of seeds, over thousands of years, stop
bothering to produce viable seeds. The loss of viable seed production,
is a good indicator of a plant's close association with humans
for at least 5,000 year, or longer.
No studies of the genetics of the "wild" sweetgrass populations have yet been done, but I predict that when such a study is completed, then we will be able to follow the movement and travel of the sweetgrass plants in association with humans. Also, the mapping of the existing "wild" stands on North America will probably show that the plant is linked directly with ancient village sites, and has not extended itself very far outside of those villages.
You can see a mapping of some of the potential village sites in Colorado, using sweetgrass as the indicator at http://www.ecoseeds.com/villagesearch.html. The website shows sweetgrass location maps that were generated by the Herbarium at Colorado State. There is an example of one site, where sweetgrass was found in June, 1898 by C. Crandall in Conejos County, where US Highway 285 crosses the Conejos River, at Lat. 37.1012, Long -106.0067, Elevation 7,799 ft.
The US highway Route 285 follows an ancient Indian trail, and the Conejos river is still considered one of the best fishing rivers in the Southwest, so the spot where sweetgrass was found in 1898--where an ancient trail crosses a river--may be a potential Indian village site where sweetgrass was originally planted.
When the Europeans first started plowing up the Native American sweetgrass beds, the plant was so common between 1800 and 1890 in parts of North America, sweetgrass was considered a weed by the farmers trying to sow a wheat crop in the middle of a thousand year old sweetgrass bed.
CHECKLIST for the very best sweetgrass:
1.) Organically grown vs wild-crafted. Most of the braids sold in the USA are wildcrafted braids, with no fertilization of the wild stands to keep them in a healthy condition. By insisting on organically grown material, that means someone was making sure to feed the plants that the sweetgrass braid was harvested from.
2.) Cut ends on braids instead of pulled. If you feel at the end of most wildcrafted braids, you may feel a rough dried bit at the end of a leaf. That is evidence of the leaves being pulled instead of cut, like pulling out our own hair instead of cutting it, and it severely damages the plants. Insist on cut-end braids instead of pulled braids.
3.) White braid ends instead of pink or purple. The pink or purple ends on some wildcrafted braids, means that those plants have been overharvested and never fertilized, to replace the nutrients that was taken away in the leaves when they were harvested. Insist on white braid ends, and never pink or purple.
Wildcrafted braid with two big problems, roots and pink.
4.) Reject cheap braids, and ask for the best. In the USA, we look for cheap braids, like $5-8 retail, which means the wholesale prices go as low as $1.80 wholesale. How can braids get produced at these low, low prices? Canadian prison labor is one answer, and another answer is by never buying the monthly bone meal, blood meal and liquid fish to feed the stands that are being harvested.
So if we ask for organically grown, and cut instead of pulled, and no pink
or purple ends, plus no prison labor to produce them--that
extra care and attention should be reflected in the price of the
braids. Cheap braids are only a sign that humans along with the
wild stands of sweetgrass are being exploited to produce those
cheap prices, and the nutrients that were taken away in the harvested
dried leaves, are not being replaced every year.
Planting the live sweetgrass root-plugs. When you first open your box containing your order, soak the roots for one minute in a bowl of water.
Then, plant them in eight-inch diameter plastic pots in potting soil, and keep in the shade for a week while they establish new roots. Move them into more and more sun, gradually over the next week's time. In the North and Northwest, they will need full sun and in the South, Southeast, Southwest and southern California, they will need afternoon shade.
Planting them first in shallow plastic pot, an "azalea pot" works well, which is a pot that is wider than it is deep, like eight inches across but only 4-6 inches deep. Do not use clay pots, because they dry out too fast.
Use a good commercial potting soil--BEST: Pure Coconut Coir, Fox Farm Ocean-Forest, Miracle Gro Cactus, Palm and Citrus potting mix, Miracle Gro Nature's Care, Redi-gro potting mix, and Supersoil potting mix.
NOT Recommended-- Miracle Gro's-- Indoor potting mix, Moisture Control, Orchid Mix, Performance Organics or Seed Starter Mix. Redi-Gro organic potting mix. DO NOT use any Kellogg brand potting soils.
Do not use a potting soil that contains polymer crystals, or add polymer crystals, as that can keep the soil too moist for the plants.
Mix organic fertilizers into the potting soil for each container, 1/4 cup of blood meal and 1/4 cup of bone meal to the potting soil, before you plant each plant.
This method of growing the plants in shallow containers helps them spread faster and make more leaf growth. The roots will spread horizontally and then grow upwards to make more shoots
About a month of growing in the pot, they will start to fill up the pot, then plant them out into the garden, spacing plants from one to three feet apart, or into a planter box, which we have a design for below.
HERE TO SEE PHOTOS from our month-by-month growing of a single
plant. A single plant is shown, in an 8-inch diameter pot,
with two foot long leaves, ready to harvest. Sweetgrass is easily
grown in a pot or planter box.
that you can build
in 15 minutes.
Build your own redwood or cedar Sweetgrass Planter Box, in 15 minutes, is six feet long, which is the proper size for three to six plants, for less than $10 in materials. Click here for details and design information.
Planting six plants in this planter, then setting the planter box up on concrete blocks, is an easy way to grow those 36-40 inch long leaves for braids or baskets!
In search of the rare
45-inch long braid...
What is needed to produce the rarely seen 45-inch long braids? Two methods, one with a planter box, and the other method is to support the leaves off the ground.
Planter box method for producing the 45 inch long leaves, is to build the redwood or cedar sweetgrass planter box and put it up on blocks.
Plants growing in raised planter boxes, helps keeps the leaves off the ground. Also, it is a good idea to thin out the leaves periodically, so that light gets to all layers.
Add some support for leaves for plants in planter box on concrete block. Put a piece of lath under the planter box at both ends and on both sides of the box, extending a couple of feet outwards, and then place a 1 x 1 inch pole on top of the lath and drape the leaves so they are supported by the pole. These plants were planted in May and photographed mid-July and leaves are two feet long at this point.
Keeping the leaves off
the ground, for plants in the soil.
When you are trying to grow the longest, most perfect leaves for baskets or braids, keeping the leaf tips off the ground will be the most important thing you do to achieve that goal. Leaf tips that drag on the ground, usually die and turn brown. For plants in the ground, we have heard that a Native American grandmother uses dowels and string.
Get two 3-foot long dowels and some string from the hardware store, and cut in half, so you have four 1.5 foot long pieces. I would use a type of string that does not stay wet, like nylon. Place dowels about 8 inches deep in the soil, about a foot away from the plant base in a square pattern and tie the string to the top of each dowel. Move the leaves so that they are suspended on the string, instead of dragging on the ground.
The results of our experiment, for plants in the planter box in May, the longest leaves were 30 inches by the end of July.
World's Longest Sweetgrass braid? We are looking for the longest sweetgrass braids, with the current leader is a braid is 44.5 inches. Send in your record holder.
This current sweetgrass braid record holder, is a 44.5 inch long braid image sent in by Paul Tenser of Springville, New York, who bought the braid about five years ago, and it still has a wonderful scent. It is decorated with turquoise and pheasant feathers, and was purchased at the annual Veteran's powwow at the Seneca Nation in Salamanca, New York.
Vanne Mocilac of Montana grew 38-40 inch long braids from our Supershamanistic strain in 2012, that you can see on the Sweetstates web page.
LARGE-SCALE PLANTING, using weed stop fabric
ABOVE: A bed-layout for large-scale braid-harvesting.
The "Weed-barrier" fabric can be ordered from McConkey Company in Sumner, Washington, (800) 426-8124 and comes in 4 foot and 6 foot widths, and the rolls are 300 feet long.
The 2004 prices and shipping weights for this fabric was: 4 foot wide $55.32 and weighs 35 pounds, and the 6 foot wide $75.43 and 46 pounds, with UPS costs extra. This fabric lasts 15-20 years in coastal California, so is an excellent investment. You roll out the fabric and leave an eight-inch gap where the sweetgrass plants grow, between the rows of fabric.
You use the four feet wide fabric if you are going to grow two foot long braids, and the six foot wide fabric, if you are planning to harvest three foot long braids. Space the plants one foot apart in the row for two foot long braids, and two feet apart in each row to produce those world's record three foot long braids.
Depending on the spacing you use, the total number of plants will range from 3,500, 5,000, 7,000 or 11,000 plants per acre.
The Supershamanistic strain,
if fertilized monthly, should be able to produce 40,000 braids
CHECK YOUR SOIL STRUCTURE! This is extremely critical to sweetgrass growing, and may contribute up to 80% towards your eventual success.
The garden area where the sweetgrass is to be planted, absolutely must be well-drained and not clayey. Check by digging the area up, watering it, and then the next day, take a hand full of soil in one hand, and squeeze it into a ball. When you open your hand, the ball should break up, at least a little bit, and not stay as a solid ball of clay. If it doesn't break up, add coarse sand and/or perlite until it does.
When growing in a container, DO NOT USE potting soil that contains polymer crystals, and do not add any polymer crystals to the potting soil, as it keep the soil too moist. Also, DO NOT ADD ANY SOIL FROM YOUR GARDEN to pots, including Michigan swamp soil.
Excessive compost can also be a very big problem, because when it breaks down, it can create waterlogged soil.
Sweetgrass is very, very fussy about having waterlogged roots, so we do not recommend adding fine compost to beds. It is better to add perlite, because that material always stays well-drained. You can add compost, but only add the coarse stuff that stays on top of a 1/8" mesh screen.
Below are three pictures, showing the varying effects of waterlogged soil on the plants and roots. Plants in photos were all planted at the same time, and show the severe effects of having waterlogged soil.
Totally waterlogged soil, few roots and only one stem per square inch.
Partially waterlogged soils, more roots and 4-10 stems per sq. inch
Perfect sweetgrass soil, thick root mass and more than 12 stems per sq. inch. Look at that dense root-mass---that is what you want to see.
WATERING should be done thoroughly, keeping plants constantly moist but not overwhelmingly wet. Never let the soil surface dry out completely, as dryness or drought is the major cause of death of a sweetgrass patch. The leaves will curl when the soil is getting excessively dry, and if still green, can revive with a thorough watering.
A Nelson water timer, the inexpensive sweetgrass survival insurance, for dry spells or when you are going away for a few days, or weeks or months, and you want to guarantee that your sweetgrass plants will not dry out.
For small beds, or for a few plants, a soaker hose hooked
up to one of these times should work fine. We have used many
different brands of timers over the 25 years of growing sweetgrass,
and have settled on this model as being the easiest to use, and
is rugged and well built.
FULL SUN is best for plants that are grown north of New Jersey, Iowa, Colorado, and central California. When growing in the South, Midwest, Southwest and southern California, we suggest keeping plants in part shade, especially in an area out of the afternoon sun from 3 P.M. onwards. Do not grow the plant indoors.
FERTILIZER is needed at least once a month during the growing season, but we do not recommend chemical fertilizers because they have the possibility of"burning" the plants.
We recommend using both bone meal and blood meal. Sweetgrass
plants are heavy feeders, and fertilizing the plants is very
important for growing into strong plants.
When you first plant your plants, if you are planting in pots, add two tablespoons each of blood meal and bone meal, and mix them into the potting soil before you plant your plants. Liquid fish fertilizers is also recommended, especially for a rapid green-up in the plants, at the rate of one cup of liquid fish per gallon watering can.
Repeat the blood meal, bone meal and liquid fish every month during the growing season, by scattering the dry fertilizers around each plant, use a watering can for in the liquid fish, and then watering in everything so you do not see any fertilizers on the soil surface.
When planting sweetgrass in a row, sprinkle one cup of bone meal per 6 foot row, which is long enough for 3-6 sweetgrass plants.
Then add one cup of blood meal per six foot row. Mix the fertilizers with the top 4-5 inches of the soil.
Plant your sweetgrass plants in the row, spacing each plant one to two feet apart.
And water plants with the liquid fish fertilizer, at the rate of one cup per gallon in watering can. We recommend the Alaska brand if you have a choice. This is very important to give the plants a rapid shot of nitrogen, whereas the blood meal is slower-release.
We do not recommend that you use any other organic fertilizers, other than blood meal, bone meal, liquid fish, potassium sulfate, diluted Liquid Ironite and Epson Salts.
Please do not use cow, horse, goat, bat guano, chicken or bunny manures, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, worm castings or fine compost.
Fine compost is especially bad for sweetgrass, because when the compost breaks down, it makes the soil too waterlogged for the sweetgrass roots to thrive well. However, coarse compost that stays on top of a 1/8" mesh screen may work well.
And please do not add any garden soil to your plants when grown in containers, and please never add any Michigan swamp soil either.
The plugs that we offer have been organically grown and not sprayed with any herbicides or fungicides. We fertilize with five pounds of blood meal and five pounds of bone meal per 100 square feet, every month during the growing season. We also use once a month, one cup of liquid fish fertilizer per gallon watering can for 50 square feet. Also, at least once a year, we add one pound of the mineral Potassium sulfate, also called Sulfate of Potash per 100 square feet, and one pound of Epson salts per 100 square feet, and one ounce of Liquid Ironite per 100 square feet diluted in a gallon of water.
We always apply the bone meal first, and since it is white, acts as a white background on the soil, so that the blood meal can be evenly sprinkled on top.
The plants will sometimes show when they have a need for the different fertilizers, for example when the leaves start turning yellow, adding iron and nitrogen in the form of blood meal, will usually cure that problem and green them back up within a week or two. Or liquid fish fertilizers can also help.
The lack of phosphorus, which is supplied by
bone meal, can be clearly seen when several inches of the bases
of the leaves or the leaf tips start turning purple, like
in the photo of the Canadian wildcrafted braids show, below.
Showing when you need to fertilize with bone meal, when a purple color appears at the leaf base.
Dried wildcrafted braids shown above, with purple color at their root ends, showing mild and severe need for phosphorus, which is supplied by bone meal, and is cured by feeding the plants once a month. Notice that these braids were harvested by pulling out by the roots, which is not recommended---instead cut them and leave a few inches of stem above the ground.
Wildcrafter's Sweetgrass Fertilizer Bag. For sweetgrass wildcrafters, I am suggesting that an organic fertilizer carrying bag could be made, that can be easily taken to the woods. For every hand full of sweetgrass that is harvested, I am recommending that a hand-full of a 50% bone meal and 50% blood meal mix, be sprinkled around each plant that leaves are harvested from.
Add IRONITE once a year. Sprinkle diluted LIQUID IRONITE around the plants 1-2 times a year, diluting one fluid ounce in a gallon of water. It has iron and important trace minerals like manganese, and helps take care of the massive need for iron that sweetgrass has. There is more iron in a sweetgrass leaf than we have in our own blood. Wear gloves when handling this material. This would be an excellent material to take when wildcrafting, and help the wild sweetgrass stands. Quick release, usually used for lawns and works great on sweetgrass.
EPSON SALTS once a year adds important magnesium to the plants. One pound sprinkled around the plants will fertilize 100 square feet.
POTASSIUM SULFATE, add once a year, one pound per 100 square feet. Do not confuse this fertilizer which is a white fine powder like sugar, with the stronger Potash or Muriate of Potash or Potassium chloride, which can burn your sweetgrass plants. The Potassium chloride is a much more common fertilizer and should never be used, but you can order a pound of the Potassium sulfate on Ebay if you cannot find it locally.
REFERENCE NUTRIENT LEVELS for SWEETGRASS LEAVES -- an example of the normal mineral levels of a healthy sweetgrass leaf.
If you are growing a large stand of sweetgrass, and you want to check the mineral levels of your leaves, you can compare them with our reference analysis below, that the Soil & Plant Lab in Santa Clara, California (408) 737-0330 ran for us.
Our reference level, is for healthy plants coming out
of dormancy in March 2009 and April 2012, and were conducted on
dried blades of sweetgrass and passing them through 40 mesh screen,
and then testing for the levels of different elements.
Since this sweetgrass leaf mineral level data is from our own studies and tests (Lab No. 63461, 66742), we do not want to see this data posted on any other web sites, or incorporated into any other sweetgrass information anywhere, including by any educational institutions, or in any Federal or State government documents or web sites or on web servers:
Leaf Nutrient Reference Levels
Sweetgrass requires a tremendous amount of iron, as you can see from the leaf analysis above, that is supplied by the blood meal and the Ironite mineral fertilizer. That is why it is very important to feed your plants monthly, with the bone meal, blood meal, and liquid fish, and 1-2 times a year with Ironite to keep them in tip-top health.
The harvesting of wild stands takes a huge amount of
nutrients away from the plants when braids are harvested, and
those critical nutrients need to be replaced. For example,
for every 100 braids harvested (2.5 pounds dry weight), you
remove the equivalent of about one ounce of blood meal.
You can see why the wild stands, after decades of wildcrafting
and not being fertilized, are in decline?
There are at least two reasons why you would want to mulch your sweetgrass plants: Severe winters in the north, or for protecting the roots of the plants where you have hot, dry summers, like in the Mid-west, Southwest and deserts.
Here are some mulches to AVOID: Hay or straw, cut grass, peat moss, fine compost or worm casting, tree leaves, oak leaves, and pine needles. In cold winter areas like Montana, bales of straw are being placed around their plants, but not on top. No straw or hay should be placed directly on top of plants, and that is to keep wheat, oats or other grass seedlings being introduced into your sweetgrass patch.
Mulches to TRY: Flat stones like flagstones, crushed rock, drain rock, big layer- chicken grit, bark mulch, mesquite charcoal, a layer of Perlite® or large chunky compost. How to make large chunky compost: sift you compost through a 1/2" mesh screen, and use the larger chunky material still on top of the screen.
Surface mulch can be critically important is hot,
dry, low-humidity and windy summer areas like Texas, Oklahoma
and the Southwest, to help keep the roots from drying out, so
experiment with the different mulches. Flagstones, mesquite charcoal,
or drain rock may be the best to conserve moisture and at the
same time, keep the roots cool.
Please, do not harvest
by pulling shoots up by the roots.
Use the rule--"Don't uproot the shoots"
If you look at the wildcrafted Canadian braids, they have usually been pulled up by the roots. Harvesting by pulling up by the roots may be a quick way to harvest, but it stops the plant's ability to regrow quickly, whereas cut leaves will start regrowing immediately. Cut the leaves and keep about 2-3 inches of leaf stem above the ground.
Cutting leaves instead of pulling up by the roots, will
allow the plants to regrow quickly, and it may be possible
to get a second and third, and maybe even a fourth harvest, before
autumn. We can get up to three cuttings a year from established
plant: early May to mid June, early August, and September just
before they go dormant. In summer, the plants grow one to three
inches a day!
Harvest Experiment - Cutting vs. Pulling
Photo above shows sweetgrass regrowing two days after harvesting. In the case of the pulled plant, only a few spindly stems are seen regrowing. As far as we know, this is the first measured experiment ever conducted, to test how fast sweetgrass regrows when cut or pulled.
We started with six sweetgrass plants, each with 30 stems all at the same length, and on May 7, 2009, pulled the leaves by the roots from one plant, and cut the others at different lengths---at ground level, one inch, two inches, three inches and four inches.
Two weeks later, a foot ruler on the
left, showing the pulled plant on the left not regrowing yet.
From left to right, the plants were pulled up by the roots, then
the next was cut at ground level, cut at one inch, 2", 3"
and 4", as shown by the white numbers on the pots.
The pulled plant may take six months or more to recover, so pulling the leaves instead of cutting when harvesting, looks like it can severely damage your plant and its ability to thrive. After two months, all the cut plants were large enough to harvest, while the pulled plant is still struggling to regrow.
The plants were started in 2-3/4 inch plastic pots, and transplanted into 4 inch pots as they grew.
While the pulled plant has struggling to regrown its original 30 stems, all of the cut plant by the end of July have added to their total number of stems that have regrown to 8 inches or more, after being harvested a second time: Plant originally cut at ground level = 64 stems, Plant cut at 1' = 36 stems, Plant cut at 2" =52 stems, Plant cut at 3" = 48 stems, and Plant cut at 4" = 78 stems.
Five weeks later, a one-foot ruler on the left, showing the pulled plant barely regrowing, compared to the plants that were cut at ground level, one inch, 2", 3" and 4".
After five weeks, comparing pulled vs. cutting at
Here are the measurements, as the harvested plants regrew:
DRYING, YIELDS and BRAID-MAKING. Originally, we used to cut our sweetgrass, and lay it on newspapers in the sun, in a layer no thicker than an inch, and turn it every 30 minutes until dry. In dry, hot, low-humidity weather, leaves will dry in about four hours.
We have more details about using the freeze-drying and weighing method below.
It is easiest to braid the grass when nearly dry, and when
less than 0.4 oz. amounts. Store dried leaves in plastic bags
to retain their fragrance.
A solid patch of sweetgrass will yield one pound of dried leaves or 40 braids from every 12.5 square feet of bed, or 1-8 braids per plant by the end of summer.
Two tons per acre. One acre solidly planted and properly fertilized could yield 4,000 pounds. or two tons of dried leaves, or about 40,000 braids.
Sweetgrass an "Ecocrop"according to the FAO - Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN - Sweetgrass listed on their web page at http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/cropView?id=6720
If the wholesale price of a wildcrafted braid is $2, then a single acre could yield $80,000 worth of braids, one of the world's most valuable legal field-crop plants. Growing sweetgrass braids, has a good potential for making additional part-time income.
Archie Fire Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes in their 1992 book "Gift of Power, The Life and Teachings of a Lakota Medicine Man" suggests that you always dry your sweetgrass in the sun. He also writes that when you make your braids or bundles, you use a particular number of sweetgrass stems.
Harvesting, drying with
the Freeze-dry & weighing method, and storage
You can harvest sweetgrass at any time during the growing season. Sweetgrass is an unusual grass, in that each shoot is a single long leaf, that grows upwards until it is about nine inches long, and then it starts bending down until it trails along the ground.
Also, the grass is unusual, as a live plant, when it grows long enough for the leaves to bend, it bends backwards, with the shiny undersides upwards.
You have to take care, once the leaves grow more than nine-inches long, that they do not lay on top of each other, otherwise the lower leaves can get shaded and stop getting light.
Once the leaves grow long enough to start laying down, you may need to gently rake the leaves every week or so, like combing hair, to spread them out a bit, so they do not cover each other so much.
For braids, the leaves are usually harvested when they reach about 16 inches to two feet long or more, and I have occasionally seen braids three feet long (one meter) from Canada, but they are very rare.
In order to harvest three foot long braids, you will need to make a four foot radius circle around each individual plant, which will provide the room for the leaves to lay into as they grow.
Start your drying process during a period of a couple days where you are guaranteed dry weather, where the relative humidity will be low, without any rain or threat of rain. The ideal conditions are below 50% relative humidity. Start cutting the leaves before noon, but after any dew on the leaves, has dried.
We used to dry our loose cut grass in the sun, in layers less than an inch thick, turning the leaves every 30-60 minutes until they start curling and the tips are starting to dry. Then we moved the grasses to the shade, to finish drying, spread thinly on top of newspapers. If you allow the sweetgrass to completely dry in the full sun, you will lose some of the fragrance.
It is a delicate balance, when drying your sweetgrass, between getting the moisture out of the leaves quickly to stop the leaf-fermentation process, and to retain as much of the scent as possible.
Please note that dried sweetgrass leaves are hydroscopic (able to absorb moisture from the air), which means that unless they are stored in plastic, they will absorb a lot of moisture from the air, and the fermentation process can get started again. This hydroscopic ability is probably a survival technique used by the plant to avoid death by drought, where the leaves are able to absorb moisture readily from the air.
FREEZE-DRY & WEIGHING METHOD
Our new FREEZE-DRY & WEIGHING method appears to preserve the leaves, with the strongest scent and darkest green color. Cut the sweetgrass and place the cut-ends down in a paper grocery sack. You can really pack a sack full. Then immediately put the freshly cut sweetgrass in the freezer, and keep it there overnight. Or wrap the leaves in a bath towel.
Take the frozen sweetgrass out in the morning and spread it very thinly on top of wire mesh screen or chicken wire, or on top of newspapers laid out on the ground. Let dry in the sun for one or two hours, and grass should be curled up by then. Then put the sweetgrass back into the freezer for two hours, and take it out and dry on the wire with a single sheet of newspaper over it, for a few more hours. Weigh down the newspapers so they do not blow away.
If the grass is not completely dried by the end of the day, bundle it up in a towel and put it back in the freezer overnight, and take it out when you have another warm, dry day within which to finish the drying process.
This Freeze-dry method, seems to conserve the scent
the best, and keeps the leaves a beautiful dark green color.
Wrap the dried grass in newspapers, to check for extra moisture. In fact, the leaves will be so pliable, that you may think that they are still moist, so wrap them in small bundles with newspaper, and put the bundles back into the paper shopping bag and take it indoors.
If there is still moisture in the grass, you can check the next morning, and see if the newspaper feels moist. If so, dry for a few hours more, and wrap in newspaper for a few hours, and check again.
If the grass does not dry in one day, put it back into the paper grocery bag or wrap in a towel, and put it back into the freezer. Or if the weather changes during the drying process, put the grass back into the freezer.
MIX OF SUN-SHADE-FREEZER method. Or you can use a mixture of sun-shade drying and put the leaves in the freezer overnight. The details are shown in the Sweetgrass Drying Chart below.
CHECKING the DRYING process WITH WEIGHT. Pull two sample of sweetgrass out of the batch you are drying, of the exactly the same weight, at least 4-8 ounces of each, when you first start the drying process, and get a digital scale that can weight down to 1/10th ounce.
Put one sample in the full sun all the time, and the other sample follows along with the bulk of the sweetgrass that you are drying. Periodically weigh the two samples, and the full sun sample will dry first, and stabilize at a certain weight. Then, follow the weight as the other sample is drying, and when that weight stabilizes, your bulk sweetgrass should be fully dried also.
The Sweetgrass Drying Chart below, shows an example of drying sweetgrass in Mid-May, 2009 in central California during 42% daytime relative humidity, with clear skies and 80s daytime temperatures and 60s during the night. Suggested turning-times are listed, and every ten minutes in the first hour of drying is very important in producing the best quality dried sweetgrass.
When turning, always tease apart the clumps of sweetgrass, so the whole batch will dry evenly.
The interesting difference between sun-dried and freeze-dried,
is that freeze-drying changes the cellular structure of the leaves,
to make them stronger. Freeze-drying will make each leaf blade
almost as strong as sinew.
SWEETGRASS DRYING CHART
with newspaper, or in the freezer
turn every 15 minutes.
LAST SWEETGRASS CUTTING of the year. When daytime temps. drop into the 70s or lower, the plants are starting to go dormant, and the scent will be diminishing. Is it suggested that you cut the last batch of sweetgrass while the weather is still warm, like daytimes in the 80s. That will help develop the strongest scent when you dry the sweetgrass.
STORAGE of dried sweetgrass
Braids or dried loose sweetgrass store better in plastic zipper bags than in the open air. And they will store better in plastic and refrigerated or frozen, than at room temperature.
Wrap the braids or the loose sweetgrass in single sheets of newspaper, making bundles about 3-4 inches in diameter, before you store them in the plastic bags. Use the clear plastic Hefty brand "One Zip" Jumbo 2.5 gallon bags or the new Hefty Jumbo storage bags, to store either the cut dried grass, or braids for future use.
Check the newspapers 24 hours after you store the sweetgrass, and make sure that they are do not feel moist, indicating that the grass needs more drying. Also check the newspaper monthly for moisture, and if found, take out and dry the grass or braids in the sun for an hour, and rewrap with fresh newspaper, and put back into storage. Moisture will always migrate from the sweetgrass to the newspaper and get trapped there, so check occasionally to see if any is present.
Wild crafted braids are usually stored in the open air, and lose their scent within a few months that way.
So far, storing the dried sweetgrass in sealed plastic, appears to keep the scent in the grass for about three to four times longer, than if they are left exposed constantly to the open air. Refrigeration or freezing when stored in the plastic bags, may also help keep the scent in the dried sweetgrass longer.
The typical Canadian wildcrafted sweetgrass braid, consists of between 50 and 65 sweetgrass leaves. A random sample of ten Canadian braids in April 2009, half were 2 feet long, and the other half were only 1.5 feet long, and the widths ranged from 1/2" to 5/8" and were 5/16" thick, and weighed an average of 0.45 oz. each. The 0.4 oz. quantity of material is the maximum amount that is the easiest to braid.
Probably more than 100,000 wildcrafted braids are harvested in Canada each year, which is the major source of braids in North America, plus a much smaller amount of dried sweetgrass is being harvested from the wild stands off the coast of Maine. The Canadian braids range from 1.5 to 3 feet long, with an average of 1.5 to 2 feet.
A nice example of a section of a Canadian sweetgrass braid, life-sized
Braids over two feet are rare. Braids over 30 inches make up only 20% of the annual harvest, and braids 36-40 inch long, make up only about 1/10th of one percent of all the braids produced in a year. 30 inch long braids are offered wholesale in 2009 for for $2-3 each and the 36-40 inches, go for $5-8 each and sometimes as much as $20. The 24 inch and shorter braids were sold wholesale in 2009 for $1.50 to $2.50 each in early 2009.
The demand in spring of 2010 caused most of the wholesalers to completely run out of stock of any braids, creating a potential shortage of gifted, retail or powwow braids for April-August 2010. This lack of braids during the powwow and ceremonial season, should encourage persons to start planting their own stands in order to producing braids more locally, and to be self-sufficient.
In spring 2014, a lot of the Canadian wildcrafters started to retire, causing a shortage in braids available in the USA, and as the braids are more now scarce. The prices will probably go up sharply in relationship to the demand each summer for ceremonies.
It is possible to braid sweetgrass into a belt, and I would like to have a photo mailed to me, of any successful belts produced.
Canadian wildcrafted braid, showing the initial tie and start of braided end.
These leaves were harvested by pulling out by the roots, and you can see the dried roots at the end, but we recommend that you cut the leaves with a sharp knife or scissors instead.
When you first harvest the grass, make sure to keep the cut ends, all facing in the same direction. Then lay out the cut grass to dry, and go though the leaves and pull out any discolored leaves. You can also sort your leaves according to length.
It will be much easier to braid leaves that are all of the same length. You can try braiding the sweetgrass fresh, but it is much easier to braid after the leaves have dried for a few hours in the sun.
Comb the dried sweetgrass leaves with a "Lift comb" (about $2, an unbreakable model made by the American Comb Corp., Paterson, NJ is shown above), to tease out the short material and get the stems ready to braid.
Start to weave your braids, by lining up the cut ends, and wrap a single stems two times around the bundle about 2-3 inches from the cut end, and tie it off with a double knot. Use a thick fresh stem instead of dried stem for this end-tie, and leave the stout end of the stem 2" long and that is the end that you will use to tie-off with a double knot, after you have wrapped the other end around twice. Then start your braiding.
Every four braid-weaves or so, stop and pull on the root-end to straighten and even-out the braid. If one of the three braid parts runs out before the end, redivide the remaining two braid parts into three, and finish the braid. Leave about three inches at the end, for the final knot.
Finish the braid, by looping the very tip into a single knot, to keep the braid from unraveling. Photo shows tied off, finished end of braid.
MAKING BUNDLES out of shorter pieces - if you have some shorter pieces of dried sweetgrass, you can make them into tied bundles.
MAKING SACHETS, ESSENTIAL OILS and SOAPS. Some of our customers are using dried sweetgrass to make sachets, and extracting the scent by making an oil infusion from the dried leaves, and using the oil to make sweetgrass-scented soaps. Sachets are made by drying the grass and fill the sachet bags with finely cut material. Sweetgrass scented oil is made by soaking the cut, dried sweetgrass in oil for 6-8 months.
WINTER HARDY to the Arctic Circle. Sweetgrass is extremely winter hardy, and will grow to Zone 1 in the USA. If you look outside and you do not see polar bears, glaciers or permafrost, you are not too cold to grow sweetgrass. Cold will probably not affect plants as they will go dormant to the roots in cold weather and resprout when the night-time temperatures get back above 45° F. Sweetgrass plants grow normally in the wild up to the Arctic Circle, as long as there is no permafrost in the soil!
You can keep your plants growing in pots in cold climates, just dig a hole in the garden, and place your pot in the ground for the winter. The garden soil around the pot will help keep the roots from freezing. You do not need to mulch your plants in winter.
KEEPING PLANTS IN PLANTER BOXES THROUGH THE WINTER--Tips from David Keffer in OKLAHOMA.. In the extreme winters of Oklahoma, the plants that were growing in the three planter, were brought together side by side and surrounded with straw bales as seen in the second photo.
Concerned about covering the plants with some kind of mulch and possibly smothering or choking the plants, two wooden pallets were polaces over the plants across the straw bales. This configuration provided two conditions that helped the plants survive winter, which included sustained events of subfreezing weather down to as low as17 degrees.
Straw bales protected the plants from the harsh temperatures and at the same time generated their own heat from their decomposition in the process. The pallets "hovering" over the tops of the plants created a micro environment like a terrarium, helped from the heat from the straw bales. The palletís lattice protected from winds, snow and cold temperatures.
grow plants indoors overwinter -Roots need
the normal outdoors weather to grow properly.
THINGS THAT CAN HURT SWEETGRASS PLANTS:
(1.) Drifting or accidentally sprayed herbicides. Grow your own, in a protected area.
(2.) Weeds, especially European grasses and broad leaved weeds---so weed at least once a year.
(3.) Lack of water, especially in summer-- plants usually need water at least once a day.
(4.) Clay soil, especially sticky clay, which makes it difficult for the roots to penetrate.
(5.) Water-logged garden soils. Plants like sandy to sandy-loam soil and really dislike clay soil or water-logged soils. When the soil is wet, if you squeeze it in your hand into a ball, you should be able to crumble it apart easily. If it stays in a tight ball, you probably need to add coarse sand (like sand-box sand), or up to one-third perlite, to your sweetgrass garden spot.
(6.) Trying to growing plants indoors overwinter. Never grow indoors.
(7.) NOT FERTILIZING, at least once a month during the growing season. Always fertilize.
(8.) NOT HARVESTING at least once a year, or as often as necessary. Sweetgrass leaves grow so long, that when planted close together, they require at least one cutting of their leaves, so they do not lay their leaves over each other. We harvest in May, July and August.
(9.) Please, never harvest your sweetgrass by pulling out by the roots. "Don't uproot the shoots" - Always cut the leaves, rather than pull them out by the roots. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy for the plants to recover and regrow their leaves, if they are pulled out by the roots. However, if you cut them, the leaves will start regrowing immediately, at the rate of 1/3 inch to one inch inch a day.
PLANTS are extremely long lived, maybe the oldest living organism on the planet? Where you plant sweetgrass in your garden or field, expect, due to their extensive root systems, they will be difficult to remove, so the area should be permanently dedicated to sweetgrass.
Since the sweetgrass plant is clonal, spreading via its root system, means that sweetgrass plants may be among the oldest living organisms on the planet, perhaps each plant 100,000+ years old, to tens of millions of years old, making the individual plant nearly immortal.
When you replant sweetgrass into wildland areas on your
property, you are planting for the ages.
PLANTS do not usually produce viable seeds, but most of those seeds are not usually viable, and starting from seed can take 3-5 years to get the same sized plant that only takes 1-2 months to produce from a plug.
As a test, we recently planted 5,000 seeds, with zero
seedlings emerging. It is much easier to grow sweetgrass from
a plant, than starting from seed. Once your plants are established
and spreading, you can spread it faster by cutting out plugs from
your own patch.
HOW to VISUALLY tell SWEETGRASS from other GRASSES.
Other than the vanilla-like scent, seven visual clues your
can look for are:
1.) The base of the leaves, just below soil surface is broad and white, without any hairs, shiny.
2.) The base of the leaves measured one inch from the roots on leaves 12" long or more, the bases will be more than 1/10th of an inch in diameter and less than 2/10th of an inch. The average of 20 leaves was 0.138 inch.
3.) The undersides of the leaves are very shiny, never any hairs. When the leaves grow long and flip to expose the undersides, this shiny quality is helpful in spotting wild stands--when the sun shines off them like satin ribbons, and you can probably see them for a 1/4 mile.
4.) The undersides of the leaves are flat, never v-shaped.
5.) The leaves curl very quickly, when dried in the sun. Other grass leaves usually remain flat when dried.
6.) On leaves 12" long or more, they are at least 1/4" across at their widest point. The measured range of 10 leaves was 0.25" to 0.40", with an average of 0.328"
7.) The flowers of sweetgrass are distinctive and unique.
The special sweetgrass leaf-shine, a method to identify sweetgrass. When sweetgrass is over a foot long, the shiny undersides of the leaves flip over, and sunlight reflects off them like satin ribbons, easy to spot at a distance.
OTHER KEY SUGGESTIONS for success.
1.) Weed your sweetgrass area at least twice a year. First in early spring, when it is easy to tell the sweetgrass from the cool-season weed grasses, and then again in summer when the summer-time, warm-season weed grasses become apparent.
2.) Fertilize at least once a month during the growing season, and more often if you are cutting grass for braids frequently. If you are wild-crafting this plant, the plants will thrive a lot better, if you leave a new offering of at least five pounds of organic fertilizers per every 100 square feet harvested, along with your tobacco offering.
The wild stands of sweetgrass are disappearing, mainly because nutrients are removed from the ground when braids are harvested, and the soil's fertility, especially the very critical phosphorus, is being depleted over time.
3.) If you have any turf grasses or other grasses growing near your sweetgrass patch, put a barrier between them. You might find that rolls of lawn edging material, can keep the turf grasses from growing in and mixing with the sweetgrass patch, and will also confine the sweetgrass.
4.) What critters might eat your sweetgrass?
If you keep ducks or geese, you should fence in the sweetgrass
away from them. As far as we know, deer should not eat
your sweetgrass, because they do not have the proper type
of teeth to do so--they mainly eat non-grass plants and shrubs.
Cats and dogs will nibble a few blades, but will not damage plants.
The only major problem we have found, is wild raccoons,
digging up the plants to get at earthworms on the roots. If raccoons
are a problem, make a frame with wire mesh or chicken wire, to
cover the plants.
When temperatures are above 60 degrees at night, and grasses are 1-2 feet tall, try this:
1.) Leaf shine, no hairs and shiny undersides. See if you can spot the sweetgrass from its leaf-shine on a sunny day, or carefully inspect the leaves, for the lack of hairs and the very shiny undersides. Also pick a few leaves and dry them, and see if the sweetgrass scent develops. The leaves should curl when dry, and develop the scent.
2.) No joints or rigid stems at base. Also, since sweetgrass does not have any jointed stems, you can pat the base of sweetgrass and not feel anything rigid or jointed, whereas most other grasses usually have joints and rigid stems at their base.
3) Mow the area high, like at 3-4" tall, and fertilize monthly with the blood meal and bone meal at the rate of five pounds of each per 100 square feet, and liquid fish at one cup per gallon watering can. Also sprinkle some Dr. Iron around the plants 2-3 times a year.
4.) Sweetgrass should regrow fastest after mowing. Within a few weeks, check to see which grasses have regrown, and sweetgrass should have regrown the fastest.
5.) Heavy mulch and/or pulling/weeding of other grasses. If you can spot your sweetgrass and there are other grasses, try to cut or pull the other grass, and mulch the weed grasses heavily, best with tree leaves, especially oak or pine, or saw dust. It is not suggested to use any straw or hay, because that could add seeds of other grasses into your sweetgrass spot.
6.) Keep fertilizing once a month. Wild stands have been unmanaged for centuries, in terms of the nutrients they need, so keep feeding your stand once a month during the growing season.
The Sweetgrass Science Corner:
---The existence of the more ROBUST POLYPLOID type of sweetgrass, like the "Supershamanistic"type that we offer, was first described in 1960, in the article "The Occurrence and Distribution of Hierochlöe odorata in Ohio", published in the Ohio Journal of Science Vol. 60 number 6, pages 359-365, that you can download as a pdf file from this link, or get as an html file through a search from Google.
---The SCENT of sweetgrass is very complex, with 169 volatile compounds identified in, Volatile constituents of ethanol extracts of Hierochlöe odorata L. var. Pubescens Kryl., by Yoshitaka Ueyama, Toshiyuki Arai and Seiji Hashimoto in Flavour and Fragrance Journal, Volume 6 Issue 1, Pages 63 - 68, Published 1991, Online: 1 June 2006.
---SWEETGRASS PLANTED at North American Indian villages? - You can see a map of some of the potential village sites in Colorado, using sweetgrass as the indicator at http://www.ecoseeds.com/villagesearch.html.
The website shows sweetgrass location maps that were generated by the Herbarium at Colorado State. There is an example of one site, where sweetgrass was found in June, 1898 by C. Crandall in Conejos County, where US Highway 285 crosses the Conejos River, at Lat. 37.1012, Long -106.0067, Elevation 7,799 ft.
The US highway Route 285 follows an ancient Indian trail, and the Conejos river is still considered one of the best fishing rivers in the Southwest, so the spot where sweetgrass was found in 1898--where an ancient trail crosses a major fishing river--may be a potential Indian village site where sweetgrass was originally planted.
Anyone searching these Colorado sites for sweetgrass--if you find it, if you could please take a picture of the sweetgrass growing there, I would be grateful for permission, to post a copy of your photo to this web page.
It is a staggering thought, that when the Europeans first started plowing up the ancient Native American sweetgrass beds, the plant was so common between 1800 and 1890 in parts of North America , sweetgrass was considered a weed.
Iowa sweetgrass location from 1913,
we found in the book, Weed Flora of Iowa, by Louis Hermann
Pammel, Charlotte Maria King, John Nathan Martin, Jules Cool Cunningham,
Ada Hayden, and Harriette Susan Kellogg. Page 27 has a map shown
below, that has been greatly enlarged and digitally enhanced:
Hierochloë odorata (L.) Beauv. is restricted to the upper zone of salt marshes and rarely becomes dominant.In the field, the species was found not to have strict N, P, K requirements. It grew in a range of pH values from 4.3 to 7.9, tolerated salinities up to 500 mhos and favoured soils with a moisture content from 25 to 30%. It grew in situations with a mean water table between 14 and 28 cm [6-12 inches] below the surface. Natural shading in the field was found to increase the heights of plants by about 30%. The application of fertilizer in the field increased the height of sweet grass but also stimulated the growth of associated species.
Sweet grass grows in a zone
of reduced competition between the dune species and the salt-marsh
species. Near the salt-marsh, the species may be limited by high
salt concentration. The low levels of competition offered by cultivation
and the responsiveness of the species to fertilizer suggests that
cultivation of Hierochloë odorata may be successful.
---The BOTANICAL NAME for sweetgrass has changed over time. Linnaeus gave it its first name, Holcus odoratus in 1753 in Species Plantarum 1048.
Hierochloe odorata was first combined by Palisot
de Beauvois in 1812.
Hierochloe borealis was a new botanical name for sweetgrass in 1817, by Johann Jacob Roemer & Joseph August Schultes in Syst. Veg. 2:513.
Hierochloe odorata officially began in 1820, when Georg Wahlenberg wrote about it in Flora Upsaliensis 32. and Weimarck in Bot. Not. 124: 136 (1971) argues for why Hierochloë odorata (L.) Wahl should be the official name, but there has not been any consensus to make the change from Beauvois as the author.
Two botanical names that have not survived, were Savastana odorata in 1894 by Frank Lamson-Scribner in Mem. Torrey Club 5:34 and Torresia odorata in 1915, by A. S. Hitchcock in Amer. Journal Bot. 2:302.. Then there is the Hierochloe odorata (L.) Beauv.
When searching for sweetgrass in the historic records in North America, it is important to be aware of the different botanical names being used in the 1800s and early 1900s.
To make matters even more confusing, two other botanical names for sweetgrass were suggested by Weber in 1787 as Poa nitens in Suppl. Fl. Holsat. 2, no. 6, and in 1985, Anthoxanthum nitens by Y.Schouten & Veldkamp in Blumea 30: 348.
So, what has remained over the last 200 years, is Hierochlöe odorata (L.) Beauv.
The OLDEST RECORD for sweetgrass in North America found so far, is from 1823, the "Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of St. Peter's River," etc. [now called the Minnesota River, a tributary of the Mississippi River] by William H. Keating et al. on page 127:
"Beyond this, we found a small lake,
at the upper end which we encamped; The air was perfumed by the
sweet-scented grass, (Holcus odoratus), which we found here in
greater abundance than elsewhere..."
PLACES TO SEE SWEETGRASS GROWING in the wild:
Grass Prairie Preserve, Winnipeg,
Northern end, where the path starts at the corner of Bradley Street and Ravelston Ave West. Photo Google Maps.
--CANADA, Winnipeg, at the Grass Prairie Preserve or the Rotary Prairie (managed by the Rotary Club), surrounded by the Transcona Industrial Park, with Bradley Street as the western boundary and at the NE corner of Regent Avenue West, and the north boundary is Ravelston Ave West--20 acres of wet, tall grass prairie, with a trail to allow people to walk through the site. Complete plant list can be downloaded at http://www.winnipeg.ca/publicworks/naturalist/ns/Natural_Areas/NA_Reports/541.html
--SWEETGRASS growing in the forest in FRANCE, in the Pyrenees at 1,361 meters (4,080 feet), located at the exact intersection of 43° North latitude and the zero° Greenwich meridian. When surveying native vegetation understory pictures, it was found that one of the Confluence Project contributors took a picture of sweetgrass growing wild in France in September 2005, growing next to the colorful Amanita mushrooms, at http://www.confluence.org/confluence.php?lat=43&lon=0.
If you are traveling in France with a GPS unit, you can revisit this site. Photo is copyrighted by the Confluence contributor, and used with written permission of the Confluence Project.
Sweetgrass Ethnobotanical Corner
Can you help? We are looking for answers to Seven Sweetgrass questions >>--->
1.) What is the name for sweetgrass, in all of the different North American Indian languages?
2.) How is the word pronounced?
3.) Does the word translate into something, into English?
4.) Any pictures that we can have permission to post, of traditional items made out of sweetgrass, like baskets, etc.
5.) Two traditional stories in particular about sweetgrass that we are looking for: The story of the origins of sweetgrass, and any stories about digging up and taking sweetgrass live plants with you, when your family or your village moved to a new site?
6.) Any archeological confirmations, that so-called wild stands of sweetgrass in the Americas, are all first people's plantings, only found at ancient village sites?
7.) Anyone interested in funding the genetic work on the North American wild sweetgrass populations?
Answers to this questions can be found at http://www.ecoseeds.com/nativenames.html
The sweetgrass stands in the Americas, could be looked at like thousands of years old time-capsules, planted by the native peoples, and they could tell us an interesting, fantastic story. Call Craig Dremann (650) 325-7333 if you can share any information.
---Ojibwe Keepsake Quill Box, contemporary, enlarged 3x. to show details.
Artist - Cheryl Besito, Turtle Clan/Ojibwa . Construction--Birch bark foundation with quills and sweetgrass trim. Dimensions are 1.5" deep and 2.5 inches across. Photo is an example from the Akta Lakota Museum gift shop, Box 89, Chamberlain, SD 57325 - (800) 798-3452 - http://www.aktalakota.org
---MASK, Abenaki, sweetgrass, ash splint, corn husk and corn silk.
This unique mask, at http://www.chichesterinc.com/AbenakiMasks.htm is selling for $75,000. Photo copyright by Paul Crosby and used by permission from Chichester Inc. Phone 1-800-206-6544, http://www.chichesterinc.com/.
More details about this mask, and photos
of other sweetgrass artifact, like baskets, see our new Sweetgrass
Ethnobotany page at http://www.ecoseeds.com/nativenames.html
COMMUNITY SWEETGRASS SITE, or landscaping
of tribal buildings, government offices, replanting parks or natural
areas? Some tribes are using sweetgrass
as a landscaping plant around new construction for Federally-funded
buildings, or planting community sweetgrass gardens, or replanting
parks or natural areas.
We are looking for pictures of anything that has been made out of sweetgrass, to post on our web page at http://www.ecoseeds.com/nativenames.html
of a single sweetgrass plant
ORDER BLANK for faxing orders, or mailing checks & money orders.
Home page of our main catalog with 150+ heirloom seeds and books at: www.ecoseeds.com
See our SWEETGRASS plants growing in HOME GARDENS:
See sweetgrass growing successfully at the homes of our customers, at http://www.ecoseeds.com/sweetstates.html
If you would like to contribute sweetgrass
pictures from your garden, please
call Craig at (650) 325-7333.
Redwood City Seed Company, Box 361, Redwood City, CA 94064.
CALL (650) 325-7333 or FAX (650) 325-4056
Order blank to order plants by FAX or mail.
THIS PAGE for PRICES and ship dates.
SWEETGRASS PAGE with prices and ship dates
Updated/SC - September 9, 2020.