Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Elymus repens - Quackgrass

Family: Poaceae (Grass family) [E-flora]

Couch grass (Elymus repens); flower and seedheads with roots Wellcome V0044081 [Wiki]

"Elytrigia 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 Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are 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." [PFAF]

"Status: Exotic [E-flora]
"General: Perennial grass from extensive rhizomes; stems erect to decumbent, 50-100 cm tall/long, the nodes exposed, smooth." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Leaves: Sheaths smooth or hairy; blades 6-10 mm wide, flat, the undersides smooth, the upper surfaces rough along the nerves, ear-shaped lobes at the leaf-bases 0.3-1 mm long; ligules 0.25-1.5 mm long, membranous." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Flowers: Inflorescence a spike 5-15 cm long, 5-10 mm wide, erect, with 1 spikelet per node; spikelets 10-27 mm long, more than 2 times as long as the internodes, with 4 to 7 florets; glumes unequal, 7-10 mm long, with transparent edges along the upper 1/2, the tips pointed; lemmas 8-10.4 mm long, awnless or awned, the awns 0.2-3.8 (10) mm long; anthers 4-7 mm long." [IFBC-E-flora]

Habitat / Range "Mesic to dry roadsides, fields, gardens and disturbed sites in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common in S BC south of 51 degrees N, less frequent N to 55degree N; introduced from Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora] "Indigenous to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Introduced to Greenland, South America, Australia and New Zealand." [PDR] "perennial grass of fields and river margins, widespread in Europe". [ETWP]


“In view of its reputed diuretic action, excessive or prolonged use of couchgrass should be avoided since this may result in hypokalemia. The use of couchgrass during pregnancy and lactation should be avoided.” (AHP). Irrigation therapy contraindicated in edema due to cardiac or renal insufficiency (KOM). Varro Tyler cautioned against self-medication for BPH. Whenever treating BPH, a practitioner should be involved. Base-line levels of PSA should be established before considering an herbal treatment (JAD)." [HMH Duke] "Do not use couchgrass as an irrigant if edema caused by cardiac or renal condi- tions is present." [Skidmore-Roth MHH]

"No flushing-out therapy if edema is present due to cardiac or renal insufficiency.... For flushing-out therapy, ensure copious fluid intake." [PDR]


"Prolonged use may lead to loss of potassium due to it's diuretic action [301]." [PFAF]


The Range Plant Handbook, pointed out that the grains of this plant are often infected with the poisonous fungus "ergot." .

Edible Uses


"Couchgrass is listed by the Council of Europe as a natural source of food flavouring (category N2). This category indicates that couchgrass can be added to foodstuffs in small quantities, with a possible limitation of an active principle (as yet unspecified) in the final product.(G16) Previously, couchgrass has been listed as GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe).(G41)" [HerbalMed3]

The long rootstocks have often been dug up, dried, ground into flour and used for breadmaking, especially in time of famine. They have also been roasted, ground and used as a substitute for coffee .

"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] ." [PFAF]

"rhizomes dried and powdered into flour, rich in carbohydrates; used mainly as an ingredient of bread and soups, many northern and central European countries (e.g. Poland and Germany)." [ETWP]

"Rhizomes: dried, powdered into flour, added to cereal flour to make dough bread or flatbread even until the mid-20th century ...; bread made of Tilia cambium and E. repens rhizomes was called pachana, Mp [46]; dried, powdered rhizomes cooked into gruel, Sl, Mp [[34]:356]; powdered rhizomes cooked in a soup, Sl, Pk, Łd, Kp [[34]:356]; might have been used to make beer until the 18th century [25]." [Luczaj,2007] "only as famine food until the beginning of the 20th century,[Luczaj,2008] "The use of underground parts of plants (roots, rhizomes, bulbs) was recorded only for 10 species. Elymus repens rhi- zomes were particularly widely used. They were dried, ground and used to make soup, gruel or bread." [Luczaj,2007]


Grain used as food. Would be rather tedious to gather since the grain does not fall free from the surrounding bracts. The writer has not tried this grass and at present considers it an emergency food only

"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]." [PFAF]

Young Leaves & 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]." [PFAF]

Other Uses


"An infusion of the whole plant is a good liquid plant feed[54]." [PFAF]

Soil Stabilizer  

"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]." [PFAF]


"A grey dye is obtained from the roots[106]." [PFAF]

Medicinal Uses

"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]." [PFAF] "Couchgrass is used in the treatment of cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, upper respiratory conditions, gout, rheumatism, and cough. It is also used as an irrigant to treat urinary tract disorders with inflammation, as a demulcent and antimicrobial, and to prevent renal gravel." [Skidmore-Roth MHH]


"Renowned since Classical times for its claimed efficacy against disorders of the kidney and genitourinary infections, an infusion derived from the bruised rhizomes of Elytrigia repens enjoyed such sustained popularity for those pur- poses in learned medicine that it was no doubt from that source that it acquired its scattered following for them in the folk tradition in the British Isles, too. There are British records from Essex and Norfolk.41 Irish records are more widespread: from ‘Ulster’,42 Cavan,43 Kilkenny44 and Waterford.45" [MPFT]

"Medicinal Parts: The medicinal part is the rhizome collected in spring or autumn." [PDR]
"Production: Triticum rhizome consists of the rhizome, roots and short stems of Agropyron repens, harvested in spring before the blade develops, as well as its preparations. The rhizomes are collected after the fields are harrowed. They are cleaned, washed and dried at approximately 35oC." [PDR]

"The juice of the roots is used to treat cirrhosis of the liver, and some species are used to treat tumors and cancer. Couchgrass is not commonly used today. " [Skidmore-Roth MHH]

"Therapy—It is a useful agent in pyelitis and in catarrhal and purulent cystitis. It is of value also because of its soothing properties in gonorrhea. In the treatment of lithemia it will relieve the constant ache in the back, which is due to precipitation of the crystalline secreted products within the tubules of the kidneys, by furnishing abundant water for their solution. It flushes the kidneys, as it were, to an admirable extent, when renal sand has accumulated within the pelvis. Under these circumstances it is one of our most useful remedies. Whether the deposit consists of phosphates, uric acid, or the salts of calcium, it seems to act equally well. It relieves dysuria and tenesmus and has been beneficial in the treatment of both sub-acute and chronic prostatitis with enlargement, strangury and haematuria.
In gout, chronic rheumatism and jaundice with the above complications, it is of much value as an eliminant. One of our authorities speaks of it as a drink in fevers. The infusion may be iced, or given with lemon juice as lemonade.
It not only quiets the thirst, but it accomplishes the important purpose of keeping up free secretion from the kidneys. In the treatment of fever it is most important that the excretory functions should not be retarded and it is but seldom that sufficient attention is paid to the function of the kidneys. A free flow of urine is often a most effectual sedative, materially assisting in the reduction of excessive temperature. There are but seldom, unpleasant effects observed from mild stimulation of the kidneys, under these circumstances. It assists in the elimination of heat, and waste products, and greatly lessens the danger of auto-intoxication, acting more effectually in many cases, than free evacuation of the bowels.
While the demulcent effect of this agent is not as great as that of other diuretics, its influence under the circumstances above named is often more satisfactory." [Ellingwood]

"Couchgrass is stated to possess diuretic properties. It has been used for cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, benign prostatic hyper- trophy, renal calculus, lithuria, and specifically for cystitis with irritation or inflammation of the urinary tract.(G2, G7, G64)" [HerbalMed3]

"Unproven Uses: Triticum is used as a flushing-out therapy, for inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and the prevention of kidney gravel. The drug is also used for cystitis, kidney stones, gout, rheumatic pain and chronic skin disorders. Due to the high mucilage content, the drug is used as a soothing cough remedy. The infusion is used for constipation. It is also used as fructose-containing additive for diabetics." [PDR]

"Homeopathic Uses: Agropyron repens is used to treat urinary tract infections." [PDR]

"Renowned since Classical times for its claimed efficacy against disorders of the kidney and genitourinary infections, an infusion derived from the bruised rhizomes of Elytrigia repens enjoyed such sustained popularity for those purposes in learned medicine that it was no doubt from that source that it acquired its scattered following for them in the folk tradition in the British Isles, too. There are British records from Essex and Norfolk.41 Irish records are more widespread: from ‘Ulster’,42 Cavan,43 Kilkenny44 and Waterford.45" [MPFT]

Select Indications (Couchgrass) — Cancer (f; JLH); Cancer, liver (f; JLH); Cancer, pylorus (f; JLH); Cancer, Constipation (1; PHR; PH2); Cough (f; APA; PHR; PH2); Cystosis (1; APA; CAN); Dermatosis (1; APA; PH2); Diabetes (1; PHR; PH2); Gout (1; PHR; PH2); Gravel (1; FAD; KOM; PH2); Incontinence (f; DEM; FAD); Infection (2; KOM; PHR); Inflammation (1; CAN; PH2); Kidney Stone (2; APA; PHR; PH2); Prostatosis (2; APA; CAN; FNF); Swelling (1; CAN; DEM; FAD); Urethrosis (2; CAN; PH2); UTI (2; APA; KOM; PH2); Water Retention (1; APA; CAN; FAD); Worm (f; DEM; FAD). [HMH Duke]

"Extracts (Couchgrass) — EO antimicrobial (KOM). Agropyrene broadly antibiotic (PNC). With antibiotic and diuretic activity proven in animals at least, the plant may be considered potentially useful in ‘-itises’, at least of the urinary tract. Commission E, sensu Blumenthal et al. (1998), approves 6–9 g dry quackgrass a day for “irrigation therapy for inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and for the prevention (not treatment, JAD) of kidney gravel” (KOM). Commission E, sensu Gruenwald et al. (1998), approves 3–10 g quackgrass for bronchosis, cold, cough, fever, infection, pharyngosis, stomatosis, and UTI. Extracts diuretic and sedative in rats and mice, respectively. Ethanol extract weekly is antiedemic and antiinflammatory. Flavonoids possibly phytotoxic (CAN)." [HMH Duke]

"PREPARATIONS— Specific Triticum. Dose, from one to sixty minims." [Ellingwood]

"Daily Dosage: The average single dose is 3 to 10 gm of drug in 1 cup of boiling water; average daily dose is 6 to 9 gm of drug.
Tea: 1 2 to 24 gm drunk fresh several times a day; Liquid extract: 4 to 8 ml 3 times daily; Tincture: 5 to 1 5 ml 3 times daily.
Homeopathic Dosage: 5 drops, 1 tablet, 1 0 globules every 30 to 60 minutes (acute) or 1 to 3 times a day (chronic); Parenterally: 1 to 2 ml sc acute, 3 times daily; Chronic: once a day (HAB1).
Storage: The drug must be kept in sealed containers, protected from light and moisture." [PDR]

"Dried rhizome 4–8 g as an decoction three times daily.(G7)
Liquid extract 4–8 mL (1 : 1 in 25% alcohol) three times daily.(G7)
Tincture 5–15 mL (1 : 5 in 40% alcohol) three times daily.(G7)" [HerbalMed3]

"Mode of Administration: Comminuted herb decoctions and other galenic preparations for internal use. Preparation: Liquid extract: 1:1 ; Tincture: 1:5; Tea: Pour boiling water over the drug and strain after 1 0 minutes."[PDR]

"Dosages (Couchgrass) — 2–3 tsp chopped rhizome/cup water to 4 ×/day (APA; WIC); 4–8 g" [HMH Duke]

"rhizome as tea 3 ×/day (CAN); 5–15 ml rhizome tincture (1:5 in 40% alcohol) 3 ×/day (CAN); 4–8 ml liquid rhizome extract (PNC); 4–8 ml liquid extract (1:1 in 25% ethanol) 3 ×/day (CAN)." [HMH Duke]

"KE [Kommission E]: Rhizome permitted for oral use. No CI [contraindications], AE [adverse effects], I [interactions][BAnz nr.22a 01.02.90]. Flower permitted for local thermotherapy only. CI: open wounds, acute rheumatic attacks, acute inflammations. AE: allergic skin reactions (very rarely). No I [BAnz nr.85 05.05.88].
SZ [Standardzulassungen]: Rhizome permitted as herbal tea. No CI, AE, I.
FR [French Guideline]: Rhizome permitted for oral use (toxicological categories pd: 1 ht/ael wa:1 sa/ti:1).
BE [Belgian Regulations]: Rhizome permitted as traditional diuretic.
SW [Swedish Classification]: Classified as natural product." [Smet, AEHD-2]


Astringent (Steinmetz);
Bladder (Al-Rawi, Steinmetz);
Cancer (Hartwell);
Coffee (Uphof);
Cough (Uphof);
Cystitis(Al-Rawi, Steinmetz);
Demulcent (Al-Rawi, Steinmetz, Uphof, Woi.Syria);
Depurative (Al-Rawi, Steinmetz);
Diuretic (Al-Rawi, FontQuer, Steinmetz, Uphof, Woi.Syria);
Emmenagogue (Steinmetz);
Emollient (Al-Rawi, Steinmetz);
Sclerosis - Pylorus (Hartwell);
Sedative (Steinmetz);
Sudorific (Al-Rawi, Steinmetz);
Tumor (Hartwell) [DukePhyto]

"Activities (Couchgrass) — Anthelminthic (f; DEM); Antibacterial (1; APA); Antiedemic (1; CAN); Antiinflammatory (1; CAN); Antiseptic (1; CAN; PH2); Decongestant (f; APA); Demulcent (f; APA); Diuretic (1; APA; CAN; FAD); Herbicide (1; CAN); Litholytic (1; PH2); Sedative (1; CAN)." [HMH Duke]

"Physiological Action—The action of this agent is solely upon the urinary apparatus. It exercises a soothing, diuretic influence, greatly increasing the flow of the watery portion of the urine without to the same extent influencing the actual renal secretion. It is bland, mild, unirritating, and is used whenever urine, having a high specific gravity, causes irritation of the kidneys or bladder, more especially of their mucous surfaces." [Ellingwood]

Demulcent: "There are two herbs Zea mays (corn silk) and Elymus repens (couch grass) high in mucopolysaccharides that bring demulcent action specifically to the urinary tract. The cooling and mucous membrane-soothing qualities of the demulcent herbs decrease inflammation and ease any irritation along the membrane walls." [DiPasquale,2008]

"The essential oil has an antimicrobial effect." [PDR]

" Grasses et al (1995) reports that although the use of Agropyron repens does not improve urolithiasis of calcium oxalate stones, alterations in diet does affect the formation of calcium oxalate stones. This study compared three different diets: standard, high glucosidic, and high protein. An increase in citraturia occurred when A. repens was added to a high-protein diet, resulting in a reduction in stone formation. [Skidmore-Roth MHH]

"Mannitol, present in couchgrass, is poorly absorbed by oral route." [Skidmore-Roth MHH]


"CONSTITUENTS— Triticin, silica, glucose, inosite, mucilage." [Ellingwood]

Mucilages [PDR]
Triticin (polyfructosan) [PDR]
Sugar alcohols [PDR]
Soluble silicic acid [PDR]
"Volatile oil: including carvacrol and carvone-containing Phydroxyalkyl cinnamic acid alkyl ester" [PDR] "Volatile oils 0.05%. Agropyrene (95%). Presence of agropyrene has been disputed,(1) with the oil reported to consist mainly of the monoterpenes carvacrol, trans-anethole, carvone, thymol, menthol, menthone and p-cymene and three sesquiterpenes." [HerbalMed3] "Carbohydrates Fructose, glucose, inositol, mannitol, mucilaginous substances (10%), pectin, triticin." [HerbalMed3]
"Cyanogenetic glycosides Unspecified." [HerbalMed3]
"Flavonoids Tricin and other unidentified flavonoids." [HerbalMed3]
"Saponins No details documented." [HerbalMed3]
"Other constituents Fixed oil, vanillin glucoside." [HerbalMed3]

"Agropyrene is regarded as the main active principle in couchgrass on account of its antibiotic effect, although the presence of agropyrene in the volatile oil has been disputed." [HerbalMed3]


Agropyron repens), produce exudates that retard the growth of other plants. [GF Winch]

"For example, quack grass (Elymus repens (L.) Gould) shoots and rhizomes reduce the emergence and growth of alfalfa, cause chlorotic and stunted growth of oats and barley and reduce root nodulation in numerous legumes (Weston and Putnam 1985)." [Lichtfouse SAR 3]

Cultivation & Propagation

"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]." [PFAF]

"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]." [PFAF]

Agropyron repens [E-flora][HerbalMed3]
Agropyron repens var. subulatum (Schreb.) Roemer & J.A. Schultes [E-flora]
Elytrigia repens [PFAF][E-flora][HerbalMed3]
Elytrigia repens var. vaillantiana (Wulfen & Schreb.) Prokudin[E-flora]
Elytrigia vaillantiana (Wulfen & Schreb.) Beetle[E-flora]
Triticum repens L.[E-flora][HerbalMed3]
Triticum vaillantianum Wulfen & Schreb. [E-flora]


  1. [DiPasquale,2008] DiPasquale, Robin. "Effective use of herbal medicine in urinary tract infections." Journal of dietary supplements 5.3 (2008): 219-228.
  2. [DukePhyto] Accessed Dec 23, 2014; Feb 6, 2024
  3. [Luczaj,2007] Łuczaj, Łukasz, and Wojciech M. Szymański. "Wild vascular plants gathered for consumption in the Polish countryside: a review." Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 3.1 (2007): 1-22.
  4. [Luczaj,2008]Archival data on wild food plants used in Poland in 1948 Łukasz Łuczaj, Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2008, 4:4
  5. [PlantTox] Plant Toxixology, 4th Ed., edited by Bertold Hock (Professor of Cell Biology and Dean of the Center of Life and Food Sciences, Technische Universitat Munchen) & Erich F. Elstner(Professor and Head of the Institute of Phytopathology, Technische Universitat Munchen, Freising Germany), 2005, Marcel Dekker, New York, USA
  6. [PFAF], Accessed April 9, 2015
  7. [Wiki] See page for author, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Elymus Sp. - Wild-rye

"Annual, perennial herb, rhizomes 0 to well developed. Stem: generally bent at base or erect, generally tufted. Leaf: auricles present, occasionally small, fragile; ligule membranous, truncate to obtuse; blade flat, folded, or rolled. Inflorescence: spike-like (raceme-like or panicle-like), open to dense; axis generally remaining intact with age; spikelets 1–3(7) at all or most nodes, generally ascending. Spikelet: compressed laterally, glumes generally lanceolate to awn-like, occasionally 0, awned from tip or not; florets 1–11; breaking apart above glumes and between florets; lemma generally > glumes, generally rounded, 5–7-veined, tip generally acute to awned, awn straight or curved outward; palea <, =, or > lemma or 0; anthers 3(1), 1–8 mm.
± 235 species: temperate worldwide. (Greek: covered, a reference to grain being tightly covered by palea and lemma) [Barkworth 2007 FNANM 24:283–287, 348–351, 353–369, 373–378] References to number of spikelets per node is best understood as "most, if not all" and best determined by examining nodes in middle of inflorescence. Intergeneric and interspecific hybrids, along with effects of soil moisture on plant growth, render keys even more challenging and frustrating than usual. As treated here, genus includes taxa previously assigned to Agropyron (in part), Elytrigia, Leymus, Pascopyrum, Pseudoroegneria, and Taeniatherum. Elymus ×aristatus Merr., Elymus arizonicus (Scribn. & J.G. Sm.) Gould, Elymus canadensis L., Elymus interruptus Buckley, Agropyron junceum (L.) P. Beauv. [Thinopyrum junceum (L.) Á. Löve], and Elymus pycnanthus (Godr.) Melderis [Thinopyrum pycnanthum (Godr.) Barkworth] have been reported for California, may occur sporadically, but do not appear to have become naturalized. Intergeneric hybrids involving Hordeum constitute the genus ×Elyhordeum and are cited in species descriptions. Elymus farctus (Viv.) Melderis subsp. boreo-atlanticus (Simonet & Guin.) Melderis [Elytrigia juncea (L.) Nevski subsp. boreo-atlantica (Simonet & Guin.) Hylander] naturalized, under eradication at Oceano Dunes." [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Elymus alaskanus ssp latiglumis - Alaska wildrye [E-flora]
  2. Elymus glaucus - blue wildrye & ssp. glaucus & ssp. virescens
  3. Elymus hirsutus - hairy wildrye
  4. Elymus repens - quackgrass
  5. Elymus trachycaulus - slender wheatgrass

Uses of Other Elymus Sp.

Large Rye Grass, Elymus condensatus, grows from Minnesota, Colorado, and New Mexico, west to the Pacific, in damp alkaline soil, reaching a height of six or eight feet. The grains are gathered and made into flour by the Indians. [EWP]
Wild Wheat, or Squaw Grass, Elymus triticoides, is more slender but grows in similar situations and over much the same range as Large Ryegrass, but farther south. The grains are gathered by the Indians and made into meal for cakes and porridge. Other species of Elymus are also used for food by the Indians. [EWP]
Elymus eondensatus Presl. Carrizo; shtemelel (B), shaq (I,V), shtemele' (P). Stems made into arrows, tobacco tubes, cigarettes, paintbrush handles, gambling counter sticks, knives; used for house thatching; tea of new shoots taken for venereal disease. [4][Ethchumash]


Elymus alaskanus ssp latiglumis - Alaska wildrye


"General: Perennial, tufted grass from fibrous roots or short rhizomes; stems 15-90 cm tall, sometimes decumbent at the base, the nodes exposed, smooth." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Native [E-flora]


  1. [E-flora], Accessed Feb 6, 2024

Elymus glaucus - Blue wildry

Habitat / Range
"Moist to dry slopes, meadows and open forests in the lowland and montane to subalpine zones; ssp. glaucus - common in S BC, less frequent north of 55 degrees N; ssp. virescens - infrequent in coastal BC, rare E of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; ssp. glaucus - N to SE AK and YT, E to ON and S to NY, IL, AR, TX, NM, AZ and CA; ssp. virescens - S to CA." [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Native

"Elymus glauca is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in). It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in August, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure." [PFAF]

Elymus glaucus ssp. glaucus - Native [E-flora]
Elymus glaucus ssp. virescens - Native [E-flora]

"General: Perennial, bluish, tufted grass from fibrous roots or short rhizomes; stems 30-180 cm tall, erect or slightly decumbent at the base, the nodes exposed and often covered with dense short hairs." [IFBC-E-flora]

Two subspecies occur in BC:
1. Lemmas awnless or awned, the awns less than 5 mm long................... ssp. virescens (Piper) Gould
1. Lemmas awned, the awns greater than 5 mm long.................... ssp. glaucus [IFBC-E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information
"A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to montane, Western North American grass distributed in the Pacific and Cordilleran regions (introduced to Eastem and Central North America). Occurs in cool temperate and cool mesothermal climates on moderately dry to fresh, nitrogen-rich soils. Sporadic on water­shedding sites, more frequent in broad-leaved forests on water-receiving (floodplain and stream-edge) sites. Its occurrence decreases with increasing precipitation and elevation. Characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms." [IPBC-E-flora]

Edible Uses


"Seed - cooked[105, 161]. It can be ground into a flour and used to make bread. Very fiddly to use, the seed is small and difficult to extract[K]." [PFAF]

Other Uses


"The leaves are used for making mats, rope, paper etc." [PFAF]


"An easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils, preferring a sandy soil and a sunny position[1, 162]." [PFAF]

Stabilizer "Often planted near the coast to stabilize sand dunes." [PFAF]

"Seed - sow mid spring in situ and only just cover the seed[162]. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. If the supply of seed is limited, it can also be sown in mid spring in a cold frame. Only just cover the seed. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in summer[K] Division in spring or summer[162]. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring." [PFAF]

Elymus glaucus var. jepsonii Burtt Davy [E-flora]
Elymus glaucus var. tenuis Vasey [E-flora]
Leymus secalinus. [PFAF]


Elymus hirsutus - hairy wildrye

"General: Perennial, tufted grass from fibrous roots or short rhizomes, the tufts small; stems 40-120 cm tall, usually decumbent at the base, the nodes exposed, occasionally with dense short hairs pointing downward." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Moist meadows, streamsides and open forests in all vegetation zones; frequent in coastal SW BC, infrequent in SC BC, rare in SE BC; N to AK and S to NW OR." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Ecological Indicator Information A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to subalpine, Western North American grass distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs on very moist to wet, nitrogen-rich soils within boreal, cool temperate, and cool mesothermal climates; its occurrence decreases with increasing continentality. Sporadic in coniferous forests on water-receiving sites, more frequent in broad-leaved forests on floodplains. Characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms." [IPBC-E-flora]

Status: Native [E-flora]


  1. [E-flora], Accessed Feb 6, 2024

Elymus trachycaulus - slender wheatgrass


"General: Perennial, tufted grass from fibrous roots, sometimes with short rhizomes; stems 30-120 cm tall, erect, the nodes exposed, smooth." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Notes: Two subspecies are recognized in BC:

"1. Lemmas awned, the awns 15-40 mm long, longer than the bodies................. ssp. subsecundus (Link) A. & D. Love"

"1. Lemmas unawned or awned, the awns less than 13 mm long, shorter than the bodies................ ssp. trachycaulus." [IFBC-E-flora]

"The hybrid Elymus x macounii Vasey (Elyhordeum x macounii [Vasey] Barkw. & D. R. Dewey, Elymordeum x macounii [Vasey] Barkw.) is sporadic in BC. It is mainly a hybrid between E. trachycaulus and Hordeum jubatum." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Mesic to dry grasslands, meadows, forest openings and rocky ridges and slopes in all vegetation zones; spp. subsecundus - frequent in S BC, less frequent northward; ssp. trachycaulus - common throughout BC; N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to ME, MA, PA, NC, IN, MO, TX, NM, AZ, MX and CA." [IFBC-E-flora]


  1. [E-flora], Accessed Feb 6, 2024

Page last modified on Feb 4, 2024