Origin. The designation "West Indian lemongrass oil" was adopted at a time when its botanical origin was unknown in order to distinguish it from the regular lemongrass oil of commerce. Repeatedly oils from the West Indies were offered for sale which deviated from the East Indian oil by their lesser solubility in alcohol, particularly in dilute alcohol. It was only later that O. Stapf!) ascertained that the two oils were obtained from different plants and that the plant from which the West Indian oil is obtained is more widely distributed if anything in the East Indies than the plant from which the commercial oil is obtained. Hence, strictly interpreted, the designation West Indian oil is not justified. However, inasmuch as the name has established itself fairly well, it may be allowed to remain.
1) Bombay and other ports, presumably for further shipment to Europe.
2) Bull. Imp. Inst. 3 (1903), 13.
3) Kew Bull. 1906, 297.
The plant from which the oil here to be discussed is obtained is Cymbopogon citratus, Stapf (Andropogon citratus, D. C.; A. Schoenanthus, L.; A. citriodorum, Desf.; A. Roxburghii, Nees; A. ceriferus, Hack.; A. Nardus var. ceriferus, Hack.; Schoenan-thum amboinicum, Rumph.), lemongrass, Malay „Sereh betoel". Contrary to Malabargrass C. citratus, according to Stapf, is found cultivated only1). It is found in most tropical countries, more particularly in Ceylon and the Straits Settlements, also in Nether-Burma and Canton, in Java, in Tonquin, Africa, Mexico, Brazil, the West Indies, French Guiana, in Mauritius, Madagascar, Guinea etc. On the largest scale the grass is cultivated in the Malay peninsula, more particularly about Singapore. It is used here not only for the production of oil, but for culinary purposes as well.
This grass seldom reaches the flowering stage, hence has been observed little or not at all by botanical collectors. This explains why it has been but insufficiently characterized in spite of its wide distribution.
Lemongrass oils which, judging from their behavior'2), were derived from Cymbopogon citratus, have been examined frequently. They were obtained from the following countries and islands: S. Thome3), Brazil4), the West Indies'), Mexico"), Kamerun7), Java8), Amani9), Ceylon10)11), Cochinchina12), the Seychelles1) New Guinea2), Uganda3)5), the Philippines4), Bengal5), also the Congo Free State, West Africa, Tongkin and Bermuda6).
1) According to Tschirch, Handbuch der Pharmakognosie, vol.11, p. 819 the grass occurs in the wild state in Java, according to Bacon, likewise in the Philippines (see p. 205).
2) Compare footnote 2 on p. 192.
3) Berichte d. deutsch. pharm. Ges. 7 (1897), 501; 8 (1898), 23.
4) Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1896, 63.
5) Ibidem April 1902, 48; Oct. 1902, 50; April 1903, 49.
6) Ibidem Oct. 1903, 49.
7) Berichte d. deutsch. pharm. Ges. 13 (1903), 86; Report of Schimmel & Co. Oct. 1903, 46; Oct. 1904, 55.
8) Report of Schimmel & Co., Oct. 1904, 56. - Journ. d'Agriculture tropicale 5 (1905), 42; Report of Schimmel & Co. Oct. 1905, 46.
9) Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1905, 84.
10) Chemist and Druggist 68 (1906), 355; Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1906, 43; April 1911, 78.
11) Bull. Imp. Inst. 9 (1911), 339; Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1912, 79. 12) Report of Schimmel & Co. Oct. 1906, 89.
Concerning the cultivation of the so-called West Indian lemon-grass, a number of reports have been made which are herewith abstracted.
In Porto Allegre7), Brazil, an oil has been distilled from cultivated grass. In rainy years four cuts could be harvested, in dry years not more than three. The yield from fresh grass varied according to the season, from 0,24 to 0,4 p. c.
Some years ago, the Times of Malaya*) recommended the cultivation of lemongrass in place of citronella grass, since the former affords a larger crop. A sandy clay is best adapted to the cultivation of lemongrass but it also flourishes on well drained pure sandy soil. It prefers a certain amount of moisture, but cannot endure standing water. Hence, in order to expect a good harvest, rain and sunshine must prevail in the right proportion. The harvest may begin in the third year, moreover during the cool season, when two cuts can be made. The cutting should be followed immediately by distillation which is carried on in copper stills according to the common primitive method. Under normal conditions an annual output of 8000 oz. per acre may be expected.
Wright and Bamber9) report on the experiences in lemon-grass cultivation gathered at the experimental stations in Ceylon. Whereas the cultivation of Andropogon citratus, DC. was formerly restricted to the southern part of the island, lemongrass is now successfully cultivated in Peradeniya at an altitude of 1600 ft. with an annual rainfall of 82 in. and a mean temperature of 75,5° F. for the year. The soil is a clay, poor in organic material and nitrogen. It contains an abundance of magnesia and potash, but no lime and little phosphoric acid.
1) Bull. Imp. Inst. 6 (1908), 108; Report of Schimmel & Co. Oct. 1908, 82.
2) Berichte d. deutsch. pharm. Ges. 19 (1909), 25; Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1909, 77; April 1910, 68.
3) Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1909, 65.
4) Philippine Journ. of Sc. 4 (1909), A, 111; Report of Schimmel & Co. Oct. 1909, 76.
5) Ibidem Oct. 1909, 75; Oct. 1910, 77.
6) Bull. Imp. Inst. 9 (1911), 339; Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1912, 89.
7) Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1896, 63.
8) Kew Bull. 1906, 364; Report of ]Schimmel & Co. April 1907, 69.
9) Bull. Imp. Inst. 5 (1907), 300; Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1908, 67.
The cultivation is very simple. Tufts of grass are divided into plants suitable for transplanting and planted in holes 2 to 3 feet apart. The grass grows rapidly and can be cut 5 to 9 months after planting. Thereafter it can be cut three times each year. Inasmuch as lemongrass greatly exhausts the soil, the stumps must be transplanted every three years. 10,000 lbs. of lemongrass contain about 65 lbs. potash, 12 lbs. nitrogen, 12 lbs. lime and 9 lbs. phosphoric acid. The distilled grass is used as fuel and the ashes as fertilizer. Ordinarily the grass is distilled in the fresh condition. The distillation lasts from 4 to 5 hrs. 496 lbs. of fresh lemongrass yield 1 lb. of crude oil (0,2 p. c). The annual yield per acre amounts to about 20 lbs. of crude oil.