We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


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

Common Name Couch Grass, Quackgrass
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness 3-9
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    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Wet Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Elymus repens Couch Grass, Quackgrass

Elymus repens Couch Grass, Quackgrass


Translate this page:


Elytrigia repens is a synonym of Elymus repens (L.) Gould.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Elymus repens is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 4 and 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: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly 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.

Plant Habitats

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].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

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].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

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]. Fodder/animal feed, Forage [1-8].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

E. repens ssp. repens is a rhizomatous perennial grass developing erect culms, which are more or less curved at the base. Their length is between 30 and 120cm. Couch grass can succeed in any soil, though it grows best in light sandy soils[238]. It seems to be most competitive on fertile soils, rich in nitrogen and with a good water supply and is less successful on very acid or very dry, shallow soils [1-8]. It is a rapidly spreading, persistent and pernicious weed that should only be introduced with great caution. It tolerates a pH in the range of 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 the root can regenerate 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, the Couch is a very useful herbal medicine and Culpepper is said to have stated that half an acre of the couch was worth five acres of carrots twice over[4].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

This species is a pernicious weed and will not require assistance in spreading itself. E. repens ssp. repens is a rhizomatous perennial grass with both vegetative and sexual reproduction. It propagates easily by the rhizomes, even short fragments of which are regenerative if they include a node. The plant can therefore be rapidly spread and multiplied by soil cultivation, and where competition from other plants is not too strong, undisturbed plants can develop rapidly extending clones [1-8].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Common couch, Twitch, Quick grass, Quitch grass (also just Quitch), Dog grass, Quackgrass, Scutch grass, and Witchgrass.

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.

E. repens is a serious agricultural and horticultural weed mainly in temperate climates in the northern hemisphere and to some extent in cool climates at higher altitudes within warmer regions. It is particularly important in the northernmost, cooler, agricultural areas, where it seems to be more competitive in perennial crops than further south (Håkansson, 1969b, 1982; Holm et al., 1977). It is reported as an important weed of coffee in higher, cooler areas of New Guinea and is found in scattered sites in the cooler mountain valleys of Central and South America (Holm et al., 1977). The occurrence of this species, a C3 plant, in temperate climates and its absence in the warm tropics may be due to difficulties in producing rhizomes at higher temperatures, which has been demonstrated experimentally (Håkansson, 1969b)[1-8].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Not listed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Elymus canadensisCanadian Wild RyePerennial0.8 3-7  LMHNM202
Elymus glaucaBlue Wild RyePerennial1.0 4-8  LMHNDM202
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.


Expert comment


(L.)Desv. ex Nevski.

Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Elymus repens  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.