The species is native to Africa (Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Ruanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe) and tropical Asia (Assam, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Vietnam), where it grows in the uncultivated spaces, in the deciduous thickets, in the prairies and along the roads, even on poor soils.
is an evergreen perennial herbaceous species thickly cespitous, aromatic, 1-1,8 m tall, with robust creeping rhizome from which originate sessile leaves ensheathing at the base where they form a purple red pseudo stem of 1-2 cm of diameter. The foliar lamina is nastriform with pointed apex, up to about 1 m long and 0,5-1,6 cm broad, initially erect then drooping for about one third of its length, glaucous green.
Fast growing species cultivable in the tropical, subtropical and marginally warm-temperate climate zones as it does not bear except for a very short period temperatures around the 0 °C, is not particular about the soil, acidic or alkaline, provided draining, it can resist to periods of drought, but takes advantage from regular watering in the zones with long dry season; furthermore, it has a remarkable resistance to the fire. Besides its ornamental characteristics, is much utilized at the tropics in the family gardens for the smell it emits able to keep away the insects, in particular the mosquitoes. It can be cultivated in pot, in order to be sheltered during the coldest months, where the climate does not allow a continuous permanence in open air, utilizing loam formed, for instance, by 40% of garden earth, 40% of peaty loam and the rest by sand or perlite. The essential oil, extracted by distillation in steam current from the partially dried leaves, of yellow colour and with an intense smell of lemon, is amply utilized in cosmetics, perfumes, soaps, lotions for the skin, deodorants and in many repellent products for the insects under various forms.