Vetiver Glossary


Narong Chamchalow (Editor of PRVN's Vetiverim Newsletter) is putting together a glossary of vetiver -- an excellent initiative. If anyone would like to add or suggest modifications please contact Narong at: Narong [email protected]

Dick Grimshaw

According to Webster's Dictionary, `glossary' is “a list of difficult, technical, or foreign terms with definitions or trans-lations, as for some particular author, field of knowledge, etc., often included in alphabetical listing at the end of a textbook”.

Although `vetiver' itself is a well-known term that is now understood by almost everybody, there are also some newly coined terms and other old terms that are used in association with it. Many of these terms are not clearly understood by the `vetiverites', i.e. those who work on vetiver. Worse is the fact that some authors use certain terms with no scientific basis while others use one term instead of the other which is a more appropriate term. Examples can be seen in the use of the terms like `reclamation' and `rehabilitation' almost interchangeably. This is also true for such terms as `use' and `utilization', `tiller' and `slip', `propagation' and `multiplication', `variety' and `ecotype', etc. Some terms are not even understood by people who are not in the field, e.g. bioengineering, phytoremediation, vertical interval, backslope, slideslope, plantlet, explant, polybag.

To help our readers who are not familiar with technical terms used in the literature on vetiver, the Editor attempts to compile the glossary on vetiver and other terms used in association with it, and present them in each issue of the `Vetiverim' for the kind consideration of the readers. They are `on trial' basis, and not to be strictly taken as the `final' version. Thus, the Editor welcomes any comment or criticism from the readers, with the hope that, towards the end of the series, a booklet on “Vetiver Glossary” will be published to help the `vetiverites' to understand the terms used in vetiver literature better.

Due to space limitation in each issue of the Vetiverim, instead of presenting the terms alphabetically from a to z, a set of related terms will be given. Definition of terms from Webster's Dictionary, if any, will be given first, followed by our own (called `Vetiverim's) definition and explanation.

The present issue will feature the glossary on the term `vetiver' it self, together with other related composite terms with the root word of vetiver. Others which would follow in subsequent issues include `vetiver grass technology', `vetiver propagation', `use and utilization of vetiver', `species, varieties and ecotypes of vetiver', `vernacular names of vetiver', etc. Suggestions from the readers are most welcome for the sets of terms to be described in the future issues.

Narong Chamchalow

1. Vetiver and Its Related Terms


Definition in Webster's Dictionary: n. Fr. vetiver < Tamil vettiveru, lit., root that is dug up <ver, root). 1 an East Indian grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) whose roots yield a fragrant oil used in perfumes, cosmetics, etc. 2 its fibrous roots, also used for making screens, mats, etc.

Vetiverim's definition: n. 1 a common name of the grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) whose fragrant roots are used in perfumes, cosmetics, etc. 2 a common name of the grass of the genus Vetiveria having profuse and deep root system and strong culm used in soil and water conservation in many countries in the tropics and sub-tropics.

Explanation: 1 vetiver is originally a French word, derived from a Tamil word, vettiveru (vetti = to dig up, ver = root), also vattiveru, vetivern 2 vetiver originally means the fragrant roots of a species, Vetiveria zizanioides, used in perfumes, cosmetics, etc., and no mention has been made on other species and other uses, especially for soil and water conservation 3 vetiver also means `hatch up' - an exact description of how the spongy roots so valued for their aroma, are collected 4 the two species of vetiver currently used in soil and water conservation, i.e. Vetiveria zizanioides and V. nemoralis have wide distribution throughout Asia, and not localized in East India as was originally believed to be 5 the term is usually followed by the collective word, `grass', a common practice in naming a plant under a group to which it belongs, like napier grass, ruzi grass, etc. As the term is getting popular, it is suggested to drop the word `grass' to save time and space, and, to change the tune of misconception in some countries where the word `grass' has notorious meaning of being useless.

Boletin Vetiver:

Vetiverim's definition: n. the name of the Spanish-language newsletter published in Costa Rica by the Latin American Vetiver Network, the first issue published in May 1996.

Explanation: (for Joan Miller to fill in)


Vetiverim's definitions: n. 1 the genus to which vetiver belongs; it is a latinized word derived from a Tamil word, vettiveru; two species, V. zizanioides (lowland vetiver) and V. nemoralis (upland vetiver) are used in soil and water conservation purpose; the first one also used in perfumes and cosmetics, etc. 2 the name of the newsletter published by the Vetiver Network Philippines (VETNETPHIL), first number issued in March 1997

Explanation: 1 Genus name: Coarse, glabrous perennial grasses with fragrant profuse deep root mass containing essential oil used in perfumery and cosmetics 2 Newsletter: (for Ed Balbarino to fill in)


Vetiverim's definition: n. the name of the quarterly newsletter published by the Pacific Rim Vetiver Network, first number issue in July 1997.

Explanation: Vetiverim is derived from Vetiver (the common name of the grass in which the network as well as the newsletter is focussed on), and Pacific Rim (the region the network is serving). It is published by the Royal Development Projects Board which acts as the Secretariat of PRVN, and distributed free of charge to institutional and scientist members, which, at present, stands at about 800.


Vetiverim's definition: n. a famous French brand name (Christian Dior) of fragrant products (perfume, deodorant, after shave lotion, etc.) using essential oil extracted from the root of the vetiver grass as a base to fix other high-value volatile oils like rose oil, lavender oil, jasmine oil, etc.

Explanation: Vetiver oil has been used in perfumery for some times. It is produced in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Haiti, and a few other countries. Due to its effect on erosion, plantation of vetiver has been baned in many countries. This has reduced the supply of vetiver oil such that its price has increased many folds during the past decade. However, many cheap vetiver perfumes can be produced synthetically.


Vetiverim's definition: n. one who works on or makes use of vetiver. (Anybody has a better idea of the term to be used?)

Explanation: It is a new term coined by the Editor since it was thought that such a term would link those people who work on any aspects with vetiver, including those who use and utilize vetiver, close together.

Vetiver Blind:

Vetiverim's definition: n. natural material made from the root mass of the vetiver plant used as a blind to cool down the heat of the summer, a common practice in northern India.

Explanation: The blind is woven from the wiry, fibrous root of vetiver. The vetiver blind is continually doused with water throughout the day, turning the very wind that can dehydrate a person walking in the sun, into a scented cooling breeze, which passes through the soaked vetiver blind, releasing a bittersweet aroma. It is belived that this scent has a therapeutic effect in healing heat stroke, headaches, and delaying senile decay. An Indian poet, Biari (1595-1664), in the Satasai, described the vetiver blinds as “Lend to burning summer noon the scented chill of winter nights”.

Vetiver Oil:

Vetiverim's definition: n. an essential oil obtained by steam distillation of the root mass of vetiver; occasionally it scent dominates a perfume, but more often it is used as a fixative in fine fragrances and in soaps, lotions, deodorants, and other cosmetics.

Explanation: Spongy root mass of Vetiveria zizanioides contains trace amount of essential or volatile oil which can be extracted by steam distillation. Its major components include vetivones, khusimone and khusitone.

Vetiver Scent:

Vetiverim's definition: n. a pleasant aroma released from the vetiver root dug from the soil and hanged in the shade, believed to have a therapeutic effect in healing stroke, headaches, and delaying senile decay.

Explanation: Indian poets referred to vetiver scent as “the smell of the first monsoon shower on parched soil”, and “the perfume of a rejuvenated earth”.


Vetiver Glossary: Vetiver Grass Technology

2. Vetiver Grass Technology:

Vetiverim's definition: n. a low-cost, simple technology employing the vetiver grass for soil and water conservation and environmental protection

Explanation: The technology was first developed for the agricultural sector by the World Bank for soil and water conservation, and later expanded to cover non-agricultural sector through bioengineering and phytoremediation for environmental protection such as slope and embankment stabilization, reclamation of wasteland, rehabilitation of contaminated land, water purification, pollution control, prevention or mitigation of natural disaster, etc.

Environmental Protection:

Vetiverim's definition: (Who can help me giving the definition?)

Explanation: The environment is affected by both mechanical and chemical processes. The former is though wind and water erosion while the latter is through contamination with chemical by-products and heavy metals from urban and domestic wastes and by-products of rural manufacturing and mining industries. If these wastes cannot be economically treated or removed, off-site contamination will take place. Wind and water erosion and leaching are the causes of off-site contamination. Vegetative methods are the most practical and economical control program to reclaim or rehabilitate such sites. Vetiver has been found to be highly tolerant to extreme soil conditions including high metal concentrations. Environmental protection can be accomplished through bioengineering and phytoremediation mechanisms.


Definition in Webster's dictionary: n. a science dealing with the application of engineering science and technology to problems of biology and medicine

Vetiverim's definition: n. the use of organisms, mainly plants, on its own or in integration with civil engineering works, to address the problems of erosion and slope stabilization

Soil Bioengineering:

Definition in Webster's dictionary: none, but it does not make sense to put the word `soil' as a prefix to `bioengineering' as defined by Webster's dictionary (above).

Vetiverim's definition: n. same meaning as Vetiverim's definition of bioengineering but is specific for soil; a term used to distinguish it from another confusing (and misleading) term, `genetic engineering', which is used in medical or genetic sciences.

Water Bioengineering:

Definition in Webster's dictionary: None, same reason as `soil bioengineering' (above).

Vetiverim's definition: n. bioengineering as applied to solving the problem of sedimentation of water ways, reservoir, etc. caused by erosion and contamination


Definition in Webster's dictionary: n. the act or process of remedying or overcoming learning disabilities or problems. (From remedy = to put back in proper condition; to correct or remove).


Vetiverim's definition: n. the use of plants to clean up deteriorated, contaminated or intoxicated soil and water. (There are also two other terms used to describe the process of cleaning up, viz. reclamation and rehabilitation.)

Explanation: Vetiver can help to reclaim or rehabilitate deteriorated, contaminated or intoxicated soil and water. It can be used along with, or in some cases, in place of mechanical methods. It is an aesthetically pleasing, passive, solar energy driven cleanup technique.


Vetiverim's definition: n. Same meaning as phytoremediation, except that the organisms used include plants, animals and microorganisms. In practice, however, only plants are mainly used.


Definition in Webster's dictionary: (vt) to make (wasteland, dessert, etc.) capable of being cultivated or lived on, as by filling, ditching, or irrigating.


Definition in Webster's dictionary: n. 1 a reclaiming or being reclaimed; esp., the recovery of wasteland, dessert, etc. by ditching, filling, or irrigating 2 the process or industry of obtaining useful materials from waste products

Vetiverim's definition: n. the process of using certain mechanical or biological methods to reclaim wasteland, dessert, degraded or deteriorated soil originated as the result of natural process by filling, ditching, irrigating, or phytoremediation.

Explanation: With its unique quality of having deep root system and tolerating drought, vetiver is an ideal plant to stabilize slope and build up soil through the accumulation of debris carried down from higher areas and deposited at the front of vetiver hedgerow. Vetiver can be used to reclaim wasteland, dessert, degraded or deteriorated soil. (Note that area to reclaim has been affected by natural action, not by human intervention). The reclaimable areas through the use of vetiver include: steep-slope land, sandy soil, skeleton soil, acid sulfate soil, saline soil, mangrove soil, shallow soil, etc.


Definition in Webster's dictionary: vt. 1 to restore to rank, privileges or property which one has lost 2 to put back in good condition; reestablish on a firm, sound basis


Vetiverim's definition: n. 1 action or state of being rehabilitated 2 the process of using certain mechanical or biological therapy to restore contaminated soil or water

Explanation: Vetiver has been used to rehabilitate contaminated soil and water, e.g. garbage landfills, quarries, mine tailings, effluent disposal, etc. It can also help in water purification such as in the control of algal growth (caused by human intervention) in rivers and dams, and removal of nutrients from polluted discharge from agricultural pond in the wetland construction. Being a wetland plant, vetiver can be used in a constructed wetland system. (Note that area to rehabitate has been affected with something by the act of man like piggery waste, sewage dumps, mine tailings, garbage landfill, etc. which contain heavy metals, pollutants, acid, salt, or alkaline, etc.). The followings are examples of the processes whereby vetiver is used to rehabilitate: