Scientific Name: Anthoxanthum odoratum

Common Name: sweet vernalgrass

Other Common Names: holy grass, vanilla grass, sweet grass

Habit: A perennial grass that grows in an erect or ascending fashion and reach 1 to 2 ft in height.

Leaves: Leaves are rolled in the sheath and may reach 10 mm in width. Upper and lower leaf surfaces, as well as the leaf margins, usually have short hairs. Leaves are without auricles and have a membranous, sometimes toothed, ligule. Ligules are generally 3-6 mm in length.

Identifying Characteristics: A perennial or winter annual grass that often produces a noticeable seedhead by April or May in many of Virginia's hay fields.Sweet vernalgrass gives off a distinctive, sweet-smelling odor when mature. Plants with brownish-yellow spikes and distinctive sweet smell. Additionally, the relatively early appearance of this grass in Virginia helps in its identification.

Flower Seed Head: A brownish-yellow spike that is approximately 3/4 to 2 3/4 inches long and 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide. Each spike contains many spikelets that are approximately 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 mm long.

Where Found: This plant is most commonly a weed of pastures, hay fields, roadsides, and ditch banks that is found throughout the southeastern United States and into Kentucky and West Virginia.

  • Life cycle: perennial

  • Plant type: Grass

  • Auricle: not present

  • Plant family: Poaceae

  • Leaf arrangement: rolled in bud

  • Hair surface: no hairs; hairs from base to tip

  • Ligule: membrane

  • Length: more than 3 mm; 2-3 mm

  • Root structure: fibrous; rhizomes present

  • Seed head: spike; panicle

  • Width: less than 5 mm; 6 to 15 mm

  • Grass stem: flat or oval