For a period of time, citronella was quite a difficult plant to find locally. Only lately, if I am not wrong did this plant become more commonly available in local nurseries. I may be wrong here since it was only recently did I attempt to find more about this plant, as it could have been ‘hanging around’ for a long time?
Anyway, I noticed some of the retail nurseries selling the citronella and it was wrongly labelled as ‘lemon grass’ instead. Oh well, I must admit that the two plants look very identical, only those into cooking or aromatherapy will know that this ‘lemon grass’ on sale is not real thing since the smell emitted after crushing the leaves is vastly different.
Citronella and lemon grass are both closely related species belong to the genus Cymbopogon and are members of the Poaceae, family of the grasses. The scientific names of the lemon grass which is used in cooking is C. citratus while the citronella that has uses as an insect repellent and fragrance industry is C. nardus. Citronella oil extracted from the leaves are used to make mosquito repellents, in fact.
So how can one tell them apart? One of the most obvious tell-tale signs is that citronella has red pseudostems while those of the lemon grass are green. The citronella also have slightly wider leaf blades compared to those of the lemon grass.
These two plants are the ‘must-haves’ in any medicinal or fragrant gardens.
Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus)
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus)