Most would recognize this member of the Poaceae by its common name, sweetgrass, or more readily when its leaves are braided together.
I came across a booth selling sweetgrass braids at a local art fair. While at the booth, the vendor told me that it was a native grass of Central New York. I was feeling nostalgic and drifted back to my Flagstaff days, remembering that distinctive mellow aroma. My friend would burn her braid daily, which always gave me a warm feeling upon entering her home. So I bought the braid, brought it home, and began filling my house with a smell of the past.
Sure enough, Hierochloe odorata is native throughout Canada, New England, and Central New York. According to the USDA site, it isn’t found specifically in Onondaga County. However I’m keeping my hopes up that I will find it hiding out come the spring.
Sweetgrass has been used in a variety of ways throughout many American Indian Cultures. It has been used as an incense ceremonially, medicinally, and in basketry. Recently sweetgrass has been used in restoration plantings to combat erosion of wetland slopes.