Anthoxanthum odoratum is one of the earliest flowering meadow grasses & has the scent of freshly cut hay with a hint of vanilla.
Anthoxanthum odoratum is one of the earliest flowering meadow grasses (April) and has the scent of freshly cut hay with a hint of vanilla – hence the common name of sweet vernal-grass. Both features are also useful to identification. The plant usually grows to between 30-45cm high with short, broad leaves and a flower head 4 -6 centimetres long consisting of oblong shaped spikelets all crowded round the stem. When young the flower head can be quite dark but as flower gives way to seed it turns yellowish (Anthoxanthum coming from the Greek, Anthos meaning flower and Xanthos meaning yellow).
Habitat Information: Sweet vernal-grass is a native, short-lived perennial found in a wide variety of grassland habitats, including meadows, pastures, heaths and upland grasslands. It is most frequent on acidic soils but avoids the most drought-prone or waterlogged sites. On nutrient rich soils sweet vernal-grass is often out competed by taller, more vigorous grasses however on light, acidic and phosphate poor soils it can its self become dominant, particularly early in the season. This dominance is rarely maintained for more than a few seasons but if it does it can be controlled by cutting the sward whilst the grass is in flower.