Vetiver grass, scientifically referred to as Chrysopogon zizaniodes has variety of uses. For buildings, landscaping and gardening, vetiver comes in handy in stabilising slopes at newly constructed sites and not only adds to the beauty of the land but also offers a safeguard against erosion and controlling termites which can easily damage wooden structures around buildings.
Its fibrous, course root network is invaluable also for absorbing pollutants in sewage and drain water in buildings and homes.
This perennial grass native to India grows up to 1.5 meters high while its roots go deeper by up to 4 meters making it an invaluable grass in holding loose soils together. But unlike most grasses whose roots grow and spread horizontally, vetiver roots grow downwards in a broom like manner and in strong clusters.
“Once the grass has grown to maturity it can be trimmed to make the area around buildings quite attractive especially when the vetiver is grown in narrow lines and rows,” says Paul Mwadime Kombo of the Voi- based Mseto Environmetal Agency which specialises in cultivation of vetiver grass.
Kombo says the grass, apart from beautifying the area around buildings it also stabilises the cut out areas around the buildings so that they do not give during heavy rains.
The stems are tall, leaves long, thin and rather rigid with flowers brownish purple which adds to the beauty of the land around most buildings.
The grass is closely related to sorghum and grown widely in tropical regions with Haiti, India, Java and Reunion being the worlds leading producers.
Most varieties of vetiver are sterile (do not produce fertile seeds) and are therefore less invasive and can therefore be easily controlled by cultivation of the soil at the boundary of the vetiver hedges.
Vetiver is also a good termite repellent According to studies by Prof. Gregg Henderson, vetiver extracts could repel termites. However, vetiver grass alone, unlike its extracts, cannot be used to repel termites.
Henderson planted vetiver in trash cans and hammered wooden stakes into the soil filled cans. He then offered large population of termites the ability to move into the trash cans via another trash can, but found that although the vetiver root completely filled the cans in six months, the stakes were still attacked.
The termites had moved around the roots and got to the wood. Unless the roots are damaged, the anti-termite chemicals, are not released. Henderson reports that his research on the idea of protection of a home with vetiver planted as a barrier ended at that point.
According to Kombo, Kenyan landscape architects and civil engineers can incorporate vetiver technology to serve both as a bulwark against landslides and beautifying the land around buildings as well as purifying sewage.