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Cymbopogan winterianus Jowitt

Cymbopogan winterianus Jowitt




Cymbopogon nardus (L.) Rendle var. mahapangiri auct.

Vernacular Names


Serai wangi.


Java citronella grass, win­ter's grass, old citronella grass.


Serai wangi (General), sere wangi (Javanese), sereh wangi (Sundanese).


Takhrai ma-khuut (Northern), takhrai-hom (Central), takhrai­ daeng (Peninsular).


S[ar] Java, s[ar] d[or].


Herbe citron de Java.

Geographical Distributions

Cymbopogon win­terianus is only known from cultivation and most probably originated in southern India or Sri Lan­ka. C. winterianus was brought to Java at an ear­ly date and was taken into cultivation before 1900. Large-scale production and the use of improved selections and distillation equipment in Java started around 1900. At present, C. winterianus is cultivated throughout the tropics. In Southeast Asia, it is important in Indonesia and Vietnam and elsewhere in Brazil, China, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and India.


Cymbopogon win­terianus is a perennial, tufted, aromatic grass with numerous erect culms that arise from a short rhizome. The culm (stem) is up to 2.5 m tall, cylindrical, smooth and hairless.

The sheath leaves are stri­ate, hairless, smooth, yellowish or turning pur­plish-red, where those of the culm are tightly clasping and shorter than the internodes, while those at the base are very short, loose and slip from the culm. The ligule are chartaceous, measures about 1 mm long and ciliate. The blade is linear with long slender tip, measures up to 1 m x 1.5(-5) cm, drooping for 2/3 of its length, smooth and hairless. It is light green on the upper surface, pale bluish-green below and with scabrid-serrate margins.

The inflores­cence is a large and repeatedly branched panicle. It is 60-100 cm long, and with zigzag axis, while the branches of the high­est order end with a spatheole subtending a pair of racemes. The small bracts are linear-Iance-shaped, measure 1-2.5 cm long, many-veined and dull reddish. The racemes are 1-2 cm long, ciliate, one subsessile and one stalked, and they consist of 4-7 pairs of spikelets. One of each pair is sessile while the other is with pedicel, terminated by 1 ses­sile and 2 pedicel spikelets. The sessile spikelet is ob­long-ellipsoidal, measures 4-5 mm long and with 2 florets. The lower glume is oblong-Iance-shaped. The shape and size of the spikelet are usually flat, narrowly winged, 2-keeled and 0-3-veined. The upper glume is boat-shaped, keeled in the upper half and 3-veined. The lower floret is reduced to empty lemma. The upper floret is hermaphrodite, with lemma 3 mm long, almost transparent, 2-lobed, with awn up to 5 mm long if present, with 2 lodicules, 3 stamens and 2 styles with plumose stigmas. The pedicellate spikelet is narrowly oblong-ellipsoidal, measures up to 5 mm long, male or sterile. The lower glume is 7-9-veined while the upper glume is equal in size and 3-­veined. The florets are represented by a single transparent scale of 3 mm long, wrapped round 3 stamens and 2 lodicules.

The fruit is a cylindrical to nearly globular caryop­sis and with basal hilum.

Ecology / Cultivation

Cymbopogon winterianus is grown throughout the tropics and warm subtropics, provided mois­ture is amply available. A total annual rainfall of 2000-2500 mm evenly distributed over the year is needed for good, sustained yields. Where there is a pronounced dry season, irrigation is required if C. winterianus is to persist. The oil from leaves harvested after a dry period tends to have an in­creased aldehyde content. Generally, C. winteri­anus is found below 500 m altitude. However, in India, cultivars adapted to higher altitudes have been selected that yield well up to at least 1200 m, e.g. in tea-growing areas in Assam. Average day­time temperatures of 22-27°C are optimal for growth. Low temperatures retard growth and may reduce leaf-oil content. Even light frost causes se­vere damage and serious frost is often lethal. Hail storms can severely damage young plantations and cause damage to the leaves in older planta­tions by reducing the oil content. C. winterianus re­quires more fertile soils than the other Cymbo­pogon grasses and in poor soils its economic life is short. It prefers neutral to slightly acid, well­ drained, loamy soils with an adequate supply of moisture and nutrients. It tolerates only short pe­riods of waterlogging and is intolerant of salinity.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.19: Essential-oil plants.

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