If you’ve been up to the High Line recently, you may have noticed a particular scent coming mostly from Chelsea Grasslands. It’s been described as smelling like coriander, a combination of honey and cilantro leaves, or popcorn. I’ve also overheard it described, strangely, as a “burning crayon smell”, or a “strong chemical odor”.
So what is it? Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis). This perennial grass is bushy and fragrant. It grows and blooms in the spring and summer, and dies back in the fall and winter. The unique fragrance comes in blooming season (late summer) when the feathery panicles (stem-clustered flowers) turn a golden brown. The name “dropseed” derives from the plant’s mature seeds dropping to the ground from their hulls… right… around… now.
Be sure to take a moment on your High Line stroll, close your eyes, and take a whiff of this Prairie Dropseed. Does it smell like chemicals? Spices? Stay tuned for more seasonal changes to the High Line’s plant-life.