by Vishnupriya Hathwar
In this edition of Trick or Tree-t, we bring you the versatile Khus plant. Khus, scientifically known as Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides), is a type of grass that is related to Sorgum (a grass that gives edible seeds. Rice and wheat are other examples). However, Vetiver contains aromatic compounds and gives out sweet smelling liquids like lemon grass and Citronella grass.
Native to India, Vetiver is now grown at many places across the world. Not without reason. Vetiver or Ushira in Sanskrit is an ayurvedic herb which has many medicinal values including cooling the body and calming the mind. Khus syrup is used as a flavouring agent. The nutritious grass increases yield in milch animals and make them immune to many diseases. Freshly cut grass laid especially near windows and doors deters insects like mosquitoes and flies from entering. Summer screens made of the Vetiver root not only cool the air but make it aromatic as well.
The root structure of the Vetiver is fine yet strong. It grows thick and spreads out like a mat but goes downward to a depth of three to four meters. It binds the soil and prevents erosion. The Vetiver is so firmly entrenched both above and below the ground that it is able to absorb the force of water. For this reason, they are planted around lakes. Vetiver helps to recharge the water table. The long roots penetrate deeply and allow rain water to seep through. They also draw ground water towards the surface. This benefits other plants around it while the increased moisture in the air hastens cooling and brings down the temperature of the surrounding localities.
At Puttenahalli Lake, Vetiver is also grown in the artificial floating islands. The roots not only purify the water but also form a long and thick boundary, a safe nursery for newly hatched fish, tadpoles and insect larvae.
From the PNLIT Diary: In April 2010, one of the trustees had brought two Vetiver seedlings from Kerala. They multiplied rapidly and were transplanted on the edge of the newly recreated island at Puttenahalli Lake to prevent soil erosion. Subsequently they were planted extensively and more recently in the floating islands. The Vetiver which is now abundant in land and water at the lake owes its presence to just two seedlings.