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Elymus repens - (L.)Desv. ex Nevski.

Common Name Couch Grass
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards Prolonged use may lead to loss of potassium due to it's diuretic action [301]
Habitats A common weed of gardens, fields, hedgerows and meadows[17].
Range Most of Europe, including Britain, N. Africa, Siberia and N. America.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Well drained soil Moist Soil Wet Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Elymus repens Couch Grass

Elymus repens Couch Grass


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Physical Characteristics

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Elymus repens is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from June to September, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Elymus repens.(L.)Gould.


Edible Uses

Roots - cooked. They can be dried and ground into a powder, then used with wheat when making bread[12, 46, 105, 244]. Although thin and stringy, the roots contain starch and enzymes and are quite sweet[7]. When boiled for a long time to break down the leathery membrane, a syrup can be made from the roots and this is sometimes brewed into a beer[2, 7]. The roasted root is a coffee substitute[46]. Young leaves and shoots - eaten raw in spring salads[7]. A slightly sweet flavour, though quickly becoming very fibrous, they are rather less than wonderful[K]. The juice from these shoots is sometimes used as a spring tonic[244]. Seed[161]. A cereal mash can be made from them[7]. The seed is very small and there is a large husk surrounding it, so that effectively it is more like eating fibre than cereal[K].


Medicinal Uses

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Couch grass is of considerable value as a herbal medicine, the roots being very useful in the treatment of a wide range of kidney, liver and urinary disorders[4]. They have a gentle remedial effect which is well-tolerated by the body and has no side-effects[238]. This plant is also a favourite medicine of domestic cats and dogs, who will often eat quite large quantities of the leaves[4]. The roots are antiphlogistic, aperient, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, lithontripic and tonic[4, 7]. They are harvested in the spring and can be dried for later use[4]. A tea made from the roots is used in cases of urinary incompetence and as a worm expellent[222]. It is also an effective treatment for urinary tract infections such as cystitis and urethritis[254]. It both protects the urinary tubules against infections and irritants, and increases the volume of urine thereby diluting it[254]. Externally it is applied as a wash to swollen limbs[222].


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Other Uses

An infusion of the whole plant is a good liquid plant feed[54]. The plant has a long creeping root system and so it has been planted in sand dunes near the coast to bind the soil together[4]. A grey dye is obtained from the roots[106].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

Couch grass can succeed in any soil, though it grows best in light sandy soils[238]. It is a rapidly spreading, persistent and pernicious weed that should only be introduced with great caution. It tolerates a pH in the range 4.2 to 8.3. Some modern works have now separated this species off into a new genus as Elytrigia repens. A food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species. This species can become a pernicious weed, spreading rapidly by underground rhizomes[4] and quickly forming a dense mat of roots in the soil that strangles other plant growth[K]. Even the smallest fragment of root is capable of regenerating into a new plant, thus making it exceedingly difficult to get rid of. A good thick mulch through which nothing can grow, can be applied to the area, though it will need to be left in place for at least two growing seasons to be fully effective[K]. Despite its antisocial tendency in the garden, couch is a very useful herbal medicine and Culpepper is said to have stated that half an acre of couch was worth five acres of carrots twice over[4].


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This species is a pernicious weed and will not require assistance in spreading itself.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Elymus canadensisCanadian Wild RyePerennial0.8 3-7  LMHNM20 
Elymus glaucaBlue Wild RyePerennial1.0 4-8  LMHNDM20 
Elymus hispidusWild triga, Pubescent wheatgrass,Perennial0.8 6-9 FLMHNM404

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(L.)Desv. ex Nevski.

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