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Cymbopogon is a genus of about 70 species of mostly perennial tropical grasses in the Poaceae (grass family), known as lemongrass or oil grass for their production of aromatic essential oils, including citronella oil (from C. nardus) and geraniol (from C. martini), used in perfume and as natural insecticides. The species C. citratus, lemongrass, is widely used in Asian cooking to flavor soups, stews, and curries (including Vietnamese lemongrass soup), as well as meat, fish, and poultry dishes (including Indonesian “satay”); it is also used in herbal teas.

Cymbopogon species originated in the Old World tropics, and generally form dense clumps with wide blades. Different species grow from 0.5 to 2 m (2 to 6 ft) tall. The fleshy leaf bases (pseudostems) are harvested to be used in cooking or to be pressed for oil. Some species are also used in agroforestry for soil improvement and erosion control.

The most widely used species in the genus are C. citratus (lemongrass or West Indian lemongrass), which likely originated in southern India and Sri Lanka (although no longer known in the wild state), which rarely flowers, so it is generally propagated by dividing clumps. This species, along with Malabar lemongrass (C. flexuosus) are used in cooking, but are also harvested for oil production. C. nardus (citronella grass or nard grass) is widely cultivated in the tropics and in Florida and California for production of citronella oil.

In addition to their culinary, perfumery, and insecticidal uses, essential oils from some species (e.g., C. flexuosus) have been documented to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

(Bailey et al. 1976, Chao et al. 2000, Ecocrop 2012, Flora of China 2012, van Wyk 2005, Wikipedia 2012.)


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