Where Does the Herb Lemon Grass Come From?

Written by caroline jackson
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Where Does the Herb Lemon Grass Come From?
Thai cuisine uses lemon grass for flavouring. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Two species comprise the perennial herb called lemon grass: Cymbopogon flexuosus and Cymbopogon citratus. The herbs have culinary, ornamental and medicinal value. For example, lemon grass oil helps conditions such as indigestion, athlete's foot and stress.

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Origins

Cymbopogon flexuosus, or East Indian lemon grass, originated in New Guinea and India. Cymbopogon citratus, or West Indian lemon grass, is native to Sri Lanka and southern India. East Indian lemon grass currently grows in China, Nepal, India, Thailand, Myanmar, West Bengal and other tropical regions of Asia. Commercial cultivators grow both species in areas such as South and Central America, Africa and England.

Cultivation

Lemon grass grows best in sunny, warm and humid areas. Soil should be sandy, with a pH between 5.0 and 5.8 for Cymbopogon flexuosus, or 4.3 to 8.4 for Cymbopogon citratus. In the United States, most lemon grass grows in Florida, though it will grow in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11, like in Missouri.

Identification

Lemon grass grows in foliage clumps. Its light green leaves arch up and out. The Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden estimates lemon grass's leaf size at 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. The grass typically grows between 2 and 4 feet tall. If you break or bruise lemon grass, you'll release its distinctive lemon scent.

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