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Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea) -- A Vetiver Supplement?

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 At present, while we need large quantities of Vetiver grass for our projects, we are able to purchase only a limited quantity of Vetiver because of its high cost (as much as PHP8.0/tiller from a major supplier). It will take several years before we can propagate enough Vetiver for our needs from our existing Vetiver stocks.

To address the aforementioned issue, we are looking for available indigenous grass species that have some characteristics more similar to Vetiver, so that these grass species may be used to supplement our limited Vetiver stocks, until such time that we can propagate enough Vetiver grass.

From our preliminary observations, Tanglar grass colonies tend to grow in areas where water may collect during the rainy season.  Other grass species, like sikal, cogon, and other water loving plants grow also in the same location.  However, unlike sikal or cogon Tanglar grass colonies tend to be more localized, and has certain characteristics more similar to Vetiver.

Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea)
Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea) growing in a subdivision vacant lot in Ilagan, Isabela. (Photo copyright ©2014 by CGC)

Vetiver use has been more limited in the Philippines.

Vetiver grass has been shown in many studies in different countries to be useful for erosion control soil, nutrient retention, improved water sequestration, toxic elements sequestration, etc. As a result, it has been used in road and river bank stabilization, pollution control, sewage treatment and many other applications. One of our initial projects is the propagation and multiplication of Vetiver. Based on our Goals (see About Us), we plan to explore other potential applications of Vetiver so far not tried in a large scale by others.

Vetiver grown in plastic bags
Vetiver grown in plastic bags
. We started growing Vetiver near the onset of the dry season. The vetiver stocks shown have been cut once to encourage tiller formation.  However, because of the very dry and hot weather, we decided not to transplant them yet in the fields until there is more reliable rainwater expected during the rainy season.

When we first considered growing Vetiver, we tried to look for reliable suppliers in the Philippines. Further, except one so far, many of the suppliers we contacted were reluctant to show their stock farms and unwilling to share the provenance of their Vetiver stocks. 

Vetiver is very costly in the Philippines, especially from a source that has vital monopoly of Vetiver supply in Luzon. At PHP8/tiller, we estimated that the total of Vetiver we would require per hectare would be several times the cost of the land itself. If we start with just a few thousand, it will take us a few years to propagate the Vetiver.

Mora grass. In January 1990 Edwin A. Balbarino of the Farm and Resource Management Institute (FARMI) of the Visayas State College of Agriculture (ViSCA), Baybay, Leyte, Philippines introduced Vetiver use to address soil erosion and nutirent depletion in upland ecosystems. During the course of the study, funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada, Mora grass (a local vetiver species) was found to be used by farmers in one of the villages of Leyte.

One advatange of an indigenous  variety of Vetiver is that it has already been acclimatized to the local ecosystem. We are looking for a similar Mora grass in our area but so far has been unable to identify one that resembles Vetiver (as described in the literature).

Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea)
Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea). (Photo copyright by CGC ©2014)

The grass presented here as "Tanglar" refers more expansively to observed grass colonies:

  • that grow in areas where rainwater tends to accumulate during the rainy season
  • the leaves form a circular crown at its mature stage, however, the leaves are not as erect as Vetiver and the outer leaves tend to droop, so that it occupies a much larger area than than a comparable Vetiver colony
  • mature plants bear inflorescence on the spike of the plant

According to available literature, Tanglar grass root is fibrous. Each tiller develops an independent fibrous root system, and form a clumping growth pattern (just like like Vetiver grass and many bamboo species). Tanglar grass roots can penetrate porous clay loam soils and develop roots as long as 30 cm.-50 cm. Thus, while not as deep-rooted as Vetiver, a Tanglar grass colony can stil stand firm in place; and a dense row of Tanglar grass colonies would be very useful for soil errorion and water retention.

Other properties.  While not as deep-rooted as Vetiver grass, Tanglar grass, as an indigenous species may have other properties that may be advantageous form other ecosystems interactions and conditions.

Tanglar inflorenscence
Tanglar inflorescence (Photo copyright by CGC ©2014). After about two months, one of the more mature Tanglar found in the subdivision vacant lot developed inflorenscence.

Tanglar in low-lying areas of the farmTanglar in low-lying areas of the farm. Numerous Tanglar like grass were found mainly (forming a hedge near the boundary) in the low-lying area of Farm 02 in Cadu Malalam, where rainwater tend to flow through during the rainy season.

[The following pages include more literature.]


12. Themeda arundinacea (Roxburgh) A. Camus in Lecomte, Fl. Indo-Chine. 17: 363. 1922

Anthistiria arundinacea Roxburgh, Fl. Ind. 1: 256. 1820; A. subsericans Nees ex Steudel; Cymbopogon arundinaceus (Roxburgh) Schultes; Themeda gigantea (Cavanilles) Hackel subsp. arundinacea (Roxburgh) Hackel; T. gigantea var. sub-sericans (Nees ex Steudel) Hackel; T. subsericans (Nees ex Steudel) Ridley. 

Perennial. Culms tufted, reedlike, stout, up to 6 m tall, 1–1.5 cm in diam. Leaf sheaths glabrous; leaf blades 50–100 × 1–1.5 cm, scabrid, gradually narrowed to the thick white midrib toward base, acuminate; ligule 1–2 mm. Compound panicle large with many drooping branches, each branch bearing spathes subtending 2–3 spatheoles; spatheoles 2–3.5 cm, glabrous; peduncle pubescent at apex. Raceme composed of 0–2 spikelet pairs and a terminal triad above the involucre of 2 homogamous pairs. Homogamous spikelets arising at slightly different levels, male or barren, 12–20 mm, linear-lanceolate, densely hispid with long, golden, tubercle-based hairs, finely acuminate. Sessile spikelet 7–9.5 mm; callus 2–3.5 mm, narrowly cuneate; lower glume oblong-lanceolate, densely strigose with golden or brown hairs, hairs usually deciduous; awn 4–9 cm. Pedicelled spikelet 13–20 mm. Fl. and fr. Sep–Apr.

Mountain slopes, valley grasslands; 700–2000 m. Guangxi, Gui-zhou, Yunnan [Bangladesh, Bhutan, N India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam]. 

 Themeda arundinacea belongs to a group of giant Themeda species with stout, solid, reedlike culms and large, drooping panicles, also including T. caudata, T. intermedia, T. trichiata, and T. villosa. Most were treated in old literature at infraspecific rank under T. gigantea (Cavanilles) Hackel, which name is now applied only to a form endemic in the Philippines with awnless racemes of small, hairy spikelets. The species of this complex probably intergrade, and variation is not well understood.

Smaller forms of Themeda arundinacea with culms to 3 m tall, shorter spikelets, and shorter, weaker awns (3–4.5 cm) are sometimes separated as T. subsericans. 

Botanical Structure of the Tarlac Grass
Rodrigo M. Sicat, and Rodel T. Botio/Delfin J. Sibal 

  •  Indigenous Name: Tarlac Grass
  • Scientific Name: Themeda arundinacea (Roxb.) Ridl.
  • Spanish Name: Hierba Tarlaquena
  • Kapampangan Name: Dikut Tarlac Aboriginal Name: Tallak Ilocano Name: Tanglar; Tarlar Popular Name: Matarlac; Malatarlac

 Structure of the Plant

Stem. Selectively grows in colonies in usually moist to dry clay loam soils along high hills and flat hinterlands; annual (“annual” means once a year); as the plants burn or die during dry season (as a result of kaingin or eventual death), new shoots are enormously replaced at the onset of the rainy season. The grass shoots (plant or clone) grow from the center outward, develop new lateral shoots (tillers), and form into a ring of healthy plants. A ring produces 100-150 tillers. A young tiller is light green and becomes heavily green as its maturity stage progress. Each tiller has 8-10 pairs of sideward stems from base to apex. The sheaths of the stems are hallow or herbaceous and are sequentially woven and arranged in ascending order. The lower side sheaths of the base stems are light purple, hairy, shiny, smooth, and with parallel veins. Any of these tillers produces a sugarcane-like culm, which holds the spike. The cane-like stalk reaches 8-13 ft. tall (root base stem to spike’s apex). A grass colony bears 30-35 spikes. A spike has 12-18 nodes (joints), and every node is 0.75 cm.-4.0 cm. diameter. Internodes are 15 cm.-35 cm. apart. Fresh (green) nodes are succulent, sugarcane (sucrose aroma), and chewable. Old stalks become hard and woody. 

 Leaves. The blade (lamina) of the grass is linear, long, slender, sharp, and coarse. The sheath that enfolds the culms of the nodes is membrous or hairy. Each leaf has a long midrib that holds both the blade and sheath. The veins are parallel. The leaves reach a height of 170 cm.-225 cm. (from base to tip). Each mature plantlet produces 16-40 sheaths of leaves. A leaf measures 1.5 cm. (base), 1.6 cm. (middle), and 0.3 cm. (tip).

 During the plant’s peak of maturity, the leaves form a circular crown that makes the grass appear buoyant, showy, and majestic.

Roots. The tarmac grass [root] is fibrous. Each tiller develops an independent fibrous root system, which makes the grass colony stand firm and flexible. Roots can penetrate porous clay loam soils and develop roots as long as 30 cm.-50 cm.

 The young seeds of the grass develop primary or seminal roots. 

 Fruiting structures. The inflorescence of the grass is developed on the spike of the plant. The spike (from base stalk to tip) measures 8-13 feet. The spike contains spikelets that bear the florets (flowers). Each spike has 5-7 spikelets, which attach the flowers to the stem. The young flowers are light yellow green, smooth, and shiny. Eventually, the flowers become maple to deep brown when fully matured. The seeds are not macroscopic. Seed dispersal is either done through the wind, birds, insects, and man. Flowering period commences August and subsides in December.

When all the spikes of a solitary tarlac grass colony are in full bloom, the plant appears attractive and welcoming. From a distance, the grass florescence’s is noticeably peculiar and smart.


Uses. The leaves of the grass may be used as roofing materials in rustic places; flowers and spikes for handicrafts; and the roots are reportedly used for herbal or medicinal purposes (kidney treatment). Only very young stems and leaves of the grass are used for forage purposes (for cows and goats). 





Copyright as indicated in the original publications (see links)