What’s that Smell?


via christiNYCa's flickr

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”.

Prairie Dropseed from the 20th Street Stairwell

Prairie Dropseed from the 20th Street Stairwell

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.

A tentatious grass, Praire Dropseed, peaks through the 20th Street overpass

A tenacious grass, Praire Dropseed peeks through the decorative railing

3 Responses

  1. Amazing how this project has changed the perception ot urbanity.

  2. It smelled like the herb chamomile, I rather liked it!

  3. We vivited the High Line late last month (September) and did notice the smell. I thought it smelled like Coriander.

    We were so impressed with the High Line. Visiting from Sydney we hadn’t seen anything like it before. It is really magical to escape the busy streets below.

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