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Acorus calamus

Pronunciation: Ak-or-us kal-uh-mus
Family: Acoraceae
Common Name: Calmus, sweet flag
Plant Type:
  • grasses
  • perennial
Height to: 4'
Width to: 3'
USDA Hardiness Zones:
  • -20 to -30ºF ZONE 4
  • -10 to -20ºF ZONE 5
  • 0 to -10ºF ZONE 6
  • 10 to 0ºF ZONE 7
  • 20 to 10ºF ZONE 8
  • 30 to 20ºF ZONE 9
Sun Exposure:
  • part sun
  • full sun
Bloom Season:
  • late spring
  • early summer
  • mid summer
  • late summer
Bloom Description: Tiny yellow to green flowers on a 2-4 inches spadix
Soil Type: Moist, rich, semi aquatic
Propagation: See notes
Notes for Identification: Both the leaves and rhizome are apparently psychoactive, with the rhizome being more potent. Some users report mild hallucinations when sufficient quantities of calamus are ingested. In lesser amounts it can have a stimulating or sedative effect on the user. According to arabic, roman, and later european folk botany, the plant is also an aphrodisiac. It is said that calamus will keep people young, boost their health, and strengthen their sexual life. For aphrodisiac purposes, higher doses are recommended. A herbal bath with calamus is said to increase sexual desire. (reference 1) the oil of acorus calamus is used as an ingredient in flavors, particularly in liquors. It is used a great deal in the making of alcoholic drinks and in perfume to give a bitter tang to the former and those special nuances to the perfumes, it is also used in toothpaste. The rootstalks were at one time used to make candy. If boiled in water for about an hour, with several changes of water, then simmered in syrup, they can be a sweet treat. Calamus was also known to many early american settlers and used for a number of folk remedies. It is believed that native americans may have widely dispersed them around the united states as they planted the roots along their migratory paths to be harvested as needed. Calamus can often be found growing close to the sites of indian villages, camping areas or trails. This planting was probably undertaken not only to maintain a supply of it for medical use but also to provide the muskrat with its favorite food (hence the common indian name for calamus, 'muskrat root', or simply 'rat root') and thereby profit from a steady supply of furs. Walt whitman even wrote poetry about his beloved sweet flag. In leaves of grass he dedicated no less than thirty-nine poems to sweet flag, they are known as the calamus poems. Dried rhizomes, and sometimes leaves, of sweet flag have been used in the formulation of alcoholic beverages and some other food products. However, in some countries, calamus and its oil have been prohibited as a food additive, and within the last few years many herbal shops have stopped recommending or dispensing it. In the usa, calamus is considered unsafe for human consumption by the food and drug administration due to its carcinogenic nature. In 1968, calamus and products derived from it (like its oil) were banned as food additives and medicines. Propagation: seed should be planted during the fall or winter in a greenhouse. Fill a 2-inch deep tray with an organic soil mix, scatter seed sparsely on the surface and press firmly into the soil. Do not bury further than 1/8 inch deep. Keep the soil from moist to saturated. Seed does not require stratification and germinates in less than 2 weeks. When plants reach 3 to 4 inches, transplant them into individual 4-inch pots. Pots can be placed in shallow water or irrigated frequently to maintain very moist to saturated conditions. Transplant outdoors 1 foot apart in the spring. With adequate moisture seed can also be planted outdoors spring through early summer or in a cold frame late summer through fall. Keep soil very moist to saturated, sweet flag does not tolerate droughty conditions. Should be planted where it will be in full sun to partial shade.   source: a1b2c3. Com
USDA Heat Zones (days above 86ºF):
  • 1 to 7 days ZONE 2
  • 7 to 14 days ZONE 3
  • 14 to 30 days ZONE 4
  • 30 to 45 days ZONE 5
  • 45 to 60 days ZONE 6
  • 60 to 90 days ZONE 7
  • 90 to 120 days ZONE 8
  • 120 to 150 days ZONE 9
  • 150 to 180 days ZONE 10
  • 180 to 210 days ZONE 11
  • Greater then 210 ZONE 12
Seed photo: 1
Seed Label: 0
Located in: Grasses
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