Vetiver Identification Program

* * The Vetiver Identification Program was a research plan for investigating the diversity of vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides (L.) Nash; synonym = Chrysopogon zizanioides (L.) Roberty). DNA fingerprinting has shown that most hedge vetivers in most countries are genetically identical. These are superb for field application anywhere that vetiver will grow. See below for information on activities and research papers, including a 1998 summary article from Diversity Magazine and detailed DNA analyses for individual clones submitted by Vetiver Network members during our first rounds of testing. 

Numerous groups unaffiliated with TVNI have since concluded that this germplasm is noninvasive and well-behaved, most recently (2007) a rigorous and comprehensive independent Vetiver Risk Assessment was performed by the trans-Pacific collaboration “Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)” program of the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk (HEAR) project.  Any plant with a score of +1 or less is considered suitable for introduction to new environments; vetiver scored -8, the minimum assignable score! This "green light" reaffirms that the Sunshine type of vetiver prevalent throughout the tropics can be used with confidence, and without the need for additional plant introductions with their attendant phytosanitary concerns.  vetiver roots vetiver roots

Summary of Results

DNA fingerprinting shows that most hedge vetivers in most countries seem to be a single, nonfertile clone. In our first international survey (1996-1998), almost 90% of 60 samples from 29 countries outside South Asia proved to be genetically almost identical, traditional germplasm. This nonfertile, heritage clone, called 'Sunshine' in the United States, was spread throughout the tropics long ago, and is well-known to growers and scientists. Subsequent analyses (n >150) have reinforced this finding, have uncovered additional nonfertile diversity, and have shown there is a clear genetic distinction between these vetivers and the wild, seedy Khus type of vetiver native to the Ganges region of India.

If you are interested in vetiver's genetic diversity, you might want first to start with this short
1998 summary article, "Lessons in Diversity" , from Diversity magazine.

If you are curious about vetiver because it is not native to your area, a great deal of background information is offered in a
1996 presentation, "Know Your Hedge Vetiver", from the First International Vetiver Conference.  The traditional cultivated vetivers have never shown seediness or invasiveness, and everything we have learned in the ten years since then only confirms that conclusion.

Based on the results of the "Vetiver Identification Program", numerous groups are now performing regional and national research on local vetiver diversity and adaptability. This is particularly true in South Asia (especially India), vetiver's region of diversity.  Because this research is tied into the global DNA findings of this program, their results will also serve to inform vetiver use throughout the tropics.

In addition, both Dr. Adams and a consortium of Italian researchers are delving more deeply into the symbiotic relationships of vetiver genotypes with mycorrhiza, especially as it relates to the quantitative and qualitative production of secondary metabolites that nuture and protect the plant, as well as produce it's famous essential oil, "Oil of Vetiver". Although preliminary and not yet published in peer-review journals, it appears that, rather than a single endophytic cyanobacteria, vetiver health and adaptability is dependent on a broader spectrum of the multitude of microbial organisms that live around and within the root system of vetiver ... this exciting research is of general interest in plant physiology, and results will be noted here as they become available.

Once Bob Adams' DNA fingerprinting had uncovered that almost all vetivers outside southern Asia were the clonal, nonfertile types, confidence was established for the pantropical use of local vetiver grass "ecotypes" so long as they showed the traits of the Sunshine Group of vetiver genotypes. Numerous groups unaffiliated with TVNI have since concluded that this germplasm is noninvasive and well-behaved, most recently, rigorously, and comprehensively an independent Vetiver Risk Assessment was performed by the trans-Pacific collaboration “Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)” program of the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk (HEAR) project. 

Vetiver has been cleansed of all associative fungi and bacteria, and grown out to maturity.  Surprisingly, very little oil was produced, and it was qualitatively distinct from "Oil of Vetiver".  The results hint that, all along, vetiver grass has not produced vetiver oil but, rather, has merely served as a nurturing home for cyanobacteria residing in oil vacuoles in the roots.  While in the short term this probably doesn't affect vetiver users, it does provide an insight into potential pathways for secondary metabolite creation in grasses, the most important family of plants.  In the long run, it may lead to greater understanding of vetiver's profound resistance to pests and plagues, as well as development of novel types of farmer-friendly vetiver

Adams, R.P., M. Habte, S. Park, and M.R. Dafforn.  2004.  Preliminary comparison of vetiver root essential oils from cleansed (bacteria- and fungus-free) versus non-cleansed (normal) vetiver plants.  Biochemical Systematics and Ecology32(2004):1137-1144.

Collaborators have undertaken common  "garden trials" of select germplasm on several continents, with preliminary results presented in the 2003 paper, "Vetiver DNA-Fingerprinted Cultivars: Effects of Environment on Growth, Oil Yields and Composition"; though some differences were found in environmental response, the different genotypes were not sufficiently different to encourage anyone to use anything except the material they have in-hand.  The benefits would not be significant, and the potential for unwittingly transporting pests or plagues too great.

Adams, R.P., R.N. Pandey, M.R. Dafforn, and S.A. James.  2003.  Vetiver DNA-Fingerprinted Cultivars: Effects of Environment on Growth, Oil Yields and Composition.  Journal of Essential Oil Research 15 (November/December):363-371.

Also see Bob Adams' paper presented in China in 2003, "DNA Analysis of the Genetic Diversity of Vetiver And Future Selections for Use in Erosion Control".


            This 2000 lecture (published in 2002) on, "Hedge Vetiver: A Genetic and Intellectual Heritage", outlines a basis for public "ownership" of vetiver germplasm ...  like wheat or sugarcane, today's materials were created long-ago, by whom we do not know.  There is no legal (or ethical) basis for anyone to make a proprietary claim to control its use (and we have the DNA profiles to prove it).

Dafforn, M.R. 2002.  Hedge Vetiver: A Genetic and Intellectual Heritage.  Pp. 361-371 in Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Vetiver: Vetiver and the Environment.  Office of the Royal Development Projects Board, Bangkok.

Many of the research results up to this time were incorporated into a comprehensive overview of the genus by CRC Press :

Maffei, M., ed. 2002. Vetiveria: The Genus Vetiveria (Medicinal & Aromatic Plants-Industrial Profiles. Taylor & Francis (CRC Press), London & New York. 191 pp.

Taxonomy: "A revision of Chrysopogon Trin. including Vetiveria Bory ..." (Word .doc format) (commentary) by Dr. JeF Veldkamp has been peer-reviewed and published in Austrobaileya 5 (1999): 503-533 (140KB html file posted with permissions). The published scientific name for the species of vetiver grass used in soil and water conservation is now Chrysopogon zizanioides (L.) Roberty. The paper also includes identification keys for Thailand and Malesia. Dr. Veldkamp is a classical taxonomist and editor of grasses for the Flora Malesiana (a long-term project begun by Cornelis Steenis in the 1940s) at the Rijksherbarium at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Vetiver has a new botanical name: Chrysopogon zizanioides (L.) Roberty. It is no longer the 20th Century's Vetiveria zizanioides (L.) Nash (1903-1999) or even the long-traditional Andropogon muricatus Retz. (1783-1903). As the author noted, Vetiveria zizanioides "...doubtlessly will continue to be widely used with the usual complaints about taxonomists always changing names. Unfortunately, science means progress, and progress means changes....". Revising scientific names is not done lightly: improving our understanding of evolutionary relationships is serious science. See for yourself in taxonomist J.F. Veldkamp's 30-page peer-reviewed article (posted with permission of the publisher and author) justifying a change of genus Vetiveria to genus Chrysopogon (the boundaries of the species V. zizanioides itself are unchanged). Dr. Veldkamp has done vetiver users a notable service by providing vetiver grass a modern phylogeny ... how it relates to other species.


There was a Call for Samples for participants in the Second International Conference on Vetiver in Thailand in January. Over 50 different vetiver leaf samples were submitted by participants at the Conference for DNA "fingerprinting", and results have been disseminated to participants..

summary of research findings (Word .doc format) was published in 1998 in Diversity 13(4):27-28 (posted with permission). It provides a general overview of results so far, and suggests future research directions. An analysis of DNA research findings examining the species and genus was published by Dr. R.P. Adams, et al. in Molecular Ecology 7(1998):813-818 (491KB .pdf file posted with permissions) as "DNA fingerprinting reveals clonal nature of Vetiveria zizanioides (L.) Nash, Gramineae and sources of potential new germplasm". This paper clearly delineates among nonfertile and fertile V. zizanioides as well as separating it from related species and genera. A degree of variability ("polymorphism") among several nonfertile genotypes is documented. This peer-reviewed paper also notes that "[t]he fact that [the] two Chrysopogon species [C. fulvus and C. gryllus] are each more similar to Vetiveria taxa than to each other indicates that some taxonomic revision is warranted between Chrysopogon and Vetiveria." (p. 816).

Detailed DNA results from Adams, et al., including genetic clustering by vetiver specimen accession number, are presented in a 1997 report to The Vetiver Network. If you submitted useable DNA samples in 1996-97, your results are in this article. This article was updated with a postscript and published as:

Adams, R.P. and Dafforn, M.R. DNA Fingerprints of the Pantropical Grass Vetiver, Vetiveria zizanioides. Assumption University Journal of Technology 2(4)(Apr. 1999):173-180.

Based on over a hundred samples provided by vetiver users around the world, initial DNA-fingerprinting results and tentative conclusions were described in 

Adams, R.P. and Dafforn, M.R.  1999.  DNA Fingerprints of the Pantropical Grass Vetiver, Vetiveria zizanioides.  A.U.J.T. 2(4)(Apr. 1999): 173-180.  Assumption University Journal of Technology, Hua Mak, Bangkok.  ISSN: 1513-0886.

A paper entitled Know Your Hedge Vetiver: Environmental Concerns About Vetiveria zizanioides, presented by Mark Dafforn at the First International Conference on Vetiver in Chiang Rai, Thailand, outlines current knowledge of vetiver reproduction as well as susceptibility to pests and plagues and other related information. This paper also highlights the importance of learning more about vetiver diversity, and outlines a "Vetiver Identification Program". Vetiver samples were solicited from conference participants and other members of The Vetiver Network.

Dr. R.P. Adams, Director of the Plant Biotechnology Center at Baylor University in Texas, offers to perform DNA fingerprinting for The Vetiver Network.

A series of DNA tests on vetiver was performed by Pattana Srifah, et al. of Kasetsart University in Thailand. Their goal was to develop RAPD classification and identification of vetiver "ecotypes" collected from different areas of Thailand. Their results, presented at the First International Conference on Vetiver (Srifah, P., N. Sangduen, and V. Ruanjaichon. 1998. The use of random amplified polymorphic DNA for classification of Vetiveria spp. in Thailand. Pp. 141-146 in N. Chomchalow and H.V. Henle, eds., Proc. First International Conference on Vetiver. Chiang Rai, Thailand, Feb. 4-8, 1996. Office of the Royal Developments Project Board, Bangkok.), showed that RAPDs are a "simple, quick, and reliable alternative to identify 9 Vetiveria grass ecotypes" from various sites in Thailand. The broad diversity uncovered by this research is encouraging for future explorers in other regions!

The first vetiver DNA analysis was undertaken by
Steve Kresovich, et al. while he was at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Results in 1993 (published as Kresovich, S., W.F. Lamboy, R. Li, J. Ren, A.K. Szewc-McFadden, and S.M. Bliek. 1994. Application of molecular methods and statistical analyses for discrimination of accessions and clones of vetiver grass. Crop Science 34:805-809) showed that three essential-oil types from different localities are genetically almost identical, while all three were clearly distinct from wild, uncultivated North India types of vetiver. (A major section of Dr. Kresovich's paper also showed how easily different genotypes grown in the same greenhouse can become intermingled.)

How to Contact the Vetiver Identification Program and the Vetiver Network

If you want more information or have questions, comments, corrections, suggestions, or feedback, please contact:

Mark Dafforn
Email: vetivernet[AT]

If you have questions or comments about finding or using vetiver grass, or the Vetiver Network itself, contact:

The Vetiver Network
The Vetiver Network is a non profit and tax exempt organization, managed by professionals, with the objective of disseminating information on the use of VETIVER GRASS for soil and water conservation, land rehabilitation, embankment stabilization and pollution control.

You can learn an enormous amount about other research and about using vetiver in field agriculture, environmental remediation, and civil engineering by exploring the Vetiver Network Home Page.


Vetiver Network Home Page
VIP hits since 8/9/96

VIP Ver 5.9w Dec/8