Silky Oilgrass, Silky Heads, Citronella Grass – Cymbopogon bombycinus



Cymbopogon is from the Greek kumbe (boat) and pogon (beard), alluding to the boat-shaped sheaths which enclose the small bearded racemes; bombycinus from the Latin bombyx (silk) and inus (belonging to), referring to the inflorescence or leaves invested with long silky hairs.


Cymbopogon bombycinus is a tufted, short-lived perennial, 30–120 cm tall. The leaves turn a distinct golden colour and curl on maturity. The spikelets are covered with dense woolly hairs giving them a fluffy appearance; each inflorescence branch is subtended by a spathe (leafy bract) which becomes reddish at maturity.

The leaves of all species Cymbopogon have an aromatic smell when crushed. The cultivated lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is used as a culinary herb, in the manufacture of perfume and as an ingredient for curry.

Distribution and Habitat

This grass is endemic to Australia. It occurs in eucalypt forests and savannas of tropical and subtropical Australia on sandy or stony soils. It usually grows on hillsides in well-drained soils.

Ecological Notes

Cymbopogon bombycinus produces many seeds which germinate quickly, therefore it will self propagate on revegetation sites.


Seeds only needed to be stored for one to two months to overcome dormancy.


  • Gardner CA (1952) Flora of Western Australia Vol. 1, Part 1. In ‘Gramineae’. (Government Printer:Perth)
  • Jacobs SWL, Whalley RDB, Wheeler DJB (2008) ‘Grasses of New South Wales (Fourth Edition).’ (University of New England: Armidale)
  • Sharp D, Simon BK (2002) AusGrass: grasses of Australia. CD-ROM, Version 1.0. (Australian Biological Resources Study: Canberra, and Environmental Protection Agency: Brisbane)
  • Simon BK (1993) ‘A Key to Australian Grasses.’ (Qld Dept Primary Industries: Brisbane)
  • Tothill JC, Hacker JB (1983) ‘The grasses of southern Queensland.’ (University of Queensland Press:St Lucia)

Related Pages

Citronella Grass © C.Gardiner JCU Townsville 2012

Citronella Grass © C.Gardiner JCU Townsville 2012