ABOUT VETIVER GRASS UK
A passion for caring about people and the planet that goes back over 50 years to childhood, that continues today with the discovery of the amazing plant that is Vetiver. The extraordinary versatility of Vetiver to remedy environmental damage and improve natural well-being is relatively unknown in the West and Vetiver Grass UK is on a mission to bring the incredible benefits of Vetiver to everyone.
Until now Vetiver has been used around the world for a variety of reasons, whether it is for soil erosion, slope stability, phyto-remediation but to date no-one has thought to harness together all the powers of this extraordinary plant and bring them to the attention of the world. There are few plants that can legitimately say they support every one of the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Goals as can Vetiver, a fact that Vetiver Grass UK is incredibly proud of.
So what IS Vetiver?
Known as ‘The Miracle Grass’, Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) is a sterile tropical grass, a native of south east Asia, used around the world to treat soil erosion, slope stability, flooding and contaminated land. The dried roots are distilled to produce an Essential Oil that forms the basis of the world’s perfume industry and have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine; as Vetiver’s calming properties help relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia.
Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) is a tropical, non-invasive clump forming grass. Vetiver does not have stolons or rhizomes and can only be propagated by division. The roots are fibrous, fast growing and can reach depths of 3-4m after one year in optimal conditions. New shoots grow underground making it resistant to fires, frosts and heavy grazing.
Vetiver is able to:
- Survive in extreme climatic conditions including prolonged drought, flood and temperatures of -15°C to + 55°C
- Tolerate a wide range of soil pH from 3.3 – 12.5 without any amelioration
- Grows in soils with high acidity, salinity and alkalinity
- Tolerate high levels of heavy metals in soils such as – As, Cd, Cr, Pb, Hg, Se and Zn
- Absorb dissolved nutrients such as N & P and heavy metals in polluted water
Growing Vetiver in the UK
Although Vetiver is classed as a tropical grass, recent research has demonstrated its ability to withstand colder conditions than previously thought. Vetiver has survived under snow and heavy frosts in field conditions, primarily because the shoots are underground. Despite the fact that, Vetiver won’t survive when the ground is frozen, it has been known to survive to -10°C in Georgia, USA. Vetiver will recover after a period of dormancy and once the upper leaves that will turn purplely brown are trimmed, Vetiver will continue to grow according to the local environmental conditions. Recent research has shown that whilst optimal soil temperature for maximum root growth is 25°C, roots will continue to grow at the rate of 12.6cm/day at 13°C and only go dormant at 5°C, meaning that Vetiver would continue to grow in many UK soils for between 7-8 months of the year.
Vetiver is not suitable for growing throughout the UK, however according to the USDA Plant Hardiness map many parts of the south, southwest and southeast are eminently suitable. Soil type, shade levels, water availability and soil temperature are the controlling factors when assessing whether Vetiver will grow sufficiently to provide the relevant application, be it erosion control or slope stabilisation. Using Vetiver for Phyto-remediation will be dependent upon the soil temperature, as when the plant is dormant at temperatures below 5°C then no phyto-remediation will take place.
Due to the shorter growing season in the UK, we suggest that a combination of Vetiver slips and Young Plants are used in order to ensure a successful application. Vetiver should ideally be planted in May-June so the roots have the best soil temperatures to establish themselves before the onset of winter. Recent results from our field trials have shown that water is essential in the first growing season, until the plants are established.
Sue Rodgers owner and founder of Vetiver Grass UK is conducting a PhD Research Project with the University of Reading into how effective Vetiver will be in the UK at reducing Diffuse Water Pollution. Diffuse Water Pollution causes serious environmental damage to the UK water courses, costing a £1.3 billion per year, some of which we all pay for in our water bills. The PhD research project is looking at how effective Vetiver will be in reducing the amount of excess nutrients reaching watercourses, by absorbing significant levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorus, the primary culprits in causing water pollution.
Our discovery of Vetiver happened some 5 years ago. Having self-built our off-grid mountain home in the Sierra Nevada in Spain, we suffered a serious land slide and wanted a natural solution. We’d heard about this incredible plant whose roots grow deep and fast into the soil and so planted hundreds of Vetiver plants along the terrace edges, to prevent further slippage, which they did!
With a background in Environmental Sciences and Natural Medicine and my natural tendency to want to know everything, further research was prompted, the findings of which were just astonishing: that such an incredible plant could be so unknown and so under-utilised around the world.
So Who are We?
Founders and Owners of Vetiver Herbals and Vetiver Grass UK are Sue & Pete Rodgers. Sue has a BSc(Hons) in Environmental Sciences and a MSc in Environmental Technology and is currently studying for a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Reading. Pete is a retired (well he thought he was) Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy and has spent the last 15 years building an off-grid eco home in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain.
A shared passion for plants, sustainable living and teaching led to running an organic salad and herb business, as well as running courses in self-sufficiency, organic gardening and herbal remedies. They shared their knowledge and expertise of sustainable living and the importance of working with nature and using natural plant based remedies with the dozens of people who attended their courses and open-days over a decade.
The return to the UK to conduct a PhD research project into the viability of using Vetiver Grass for environmental remediation in the UK, enabled them to establish Vetiver Herbals and promote the incredible powers of Vetiver to a wider audience.