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The leaves have smooth edges, which can be wavy or crimped.
The sweet flag can easily be distinguished from Iris and other similar plants by the crimped edges of the leaves, the fragant odour it emits when crushed, and the presence of a spadix. The solid, triangular flower-stems rise from the axils of the outer leaves.
It is morphologically diverse, with some forms having very broad and some narrow leaves.
It is furthermore also cytotypically diverse, with an array of different karyotypes. calamus has been an item of trade in many cultures for thousands of years.
It has been used medicinally for a wide variety of ailments, and its aroma makes calamus essential oil valued in the perfume industry.
The essence from the rhizome is used as a flavor for pipe tobacco.
According to Thompson the primary morphological distinction between the triploid and the North American forms of the diploid is made by the number of prominent leaf veins, the diploid having a single prominent midvein and on both sides of this equally raised secondary veins, the triploid having a single prominent midvein with the secondary veins barely distinct.Thus the Herbarius zu Teutsch, published at Mainz in 1485, describes and includes a woodcut of this iris under the name Acorus.This German book is one of three possible sources for the French Le Grant Herbier, written in 1486, 1488, 1498 or 1508, of which an English translation was published as the Grete Herball by Peter Treveris in 1526, all containing the false identification of the Herbarius zu Teutsch.Common names in Asia include: "Changpu 菖蒲" (Mandarin Chinese)； "shoubu 菖蒲" (Japanese); "vacha"; "changpo 창포" (Korean); "bacch" (Unani); "bajai", "gora-bach", "vasa bach" (Hindi); "vekhand" (Marathi); "vasambu"/வசம்பு (Tamil); "vadaja", "vasa" (Telugu); "baje" (Kannada); "വയമ്പ്/vayambu" (Malayalam); Haimavati, "bhutanashini", "jatila" (Sanskrit), "kâmpean" កំពាន (Khmer), "bojho बोझो" (Nepali), and "Dlingo" (Indonesia).The generic name is the Latin word acorus, which is derived from the Greek άχόρου (áchórou) of Dioscorides (note different versions of the text have different spellings).