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All About Quackgrass

As silly as the name Quackgrass sounds, it’s not a laughing matter if you prefer only turf grass in your lawn. You’ll know pretty quickly if your lawn starts to see an infestation of Quackgrass as its texture, height, and color is different.

In this post, you’ll learn how to identify this weed, how it can be useful, and how to remove it from your yard.

In the meadow, in the wild grows grass and weeds Elymus repens, otherwise known as quackgrass


Quackgrass is a native perennial from Europe, Asia, and Northwest Africa. It was introduced to the United States sometime during the 16th century. It’s suspected it made its grand arrival in the US in a bag of grass seed.

Common Names

Another common name for Quackgrass is Common Couch or Creeping Wild Rye. Its scientific name is Elymus Repens.

While we don’t know why Quackgrass was given this name, you’ll learn why it isn’t something to “quack” up about.

How to Identify Quackgrass

In the meadow, in the wild grows grass and weeds Elymus repens

At full maturity, Quackgrass can reach heights of four feet. Commonly confused with crabgrass, this weed has a few defining features.

Unlike other common weeds, the seedlings’ leaves and stems are hairless.

The weed has a tapered leaf that is thicker than the average blade of grass, and the stems are hollow. The underside of the leaves can be hairy, and the top side smooth. Its leaves wrap around the hollow stem with clasping auricles that can be peeled down easily to expose the stem.

Why is Quackgrass Considered a Weed?

In the meadow, in the wild grows grass and weeds Elymus repens

Quackgrass is an invasive species that can take over quickly if not treated early. Some studies show that it’s allelopathic, meaning it releases a chemical that inhibits the growth of other plants.

Because of its unique root system, this plant spreads rapidly and is hard to eradicate once established.

How Does it Spread

Quackgrass can be introduced to your lawn by birds carrying seeds or, more commonly, from bales of straw after seeding a new lawn.

A unique feature of this weed is its intricate system of lateral growing stems that connect underground and produce new plants. These stems are called rhizomes and are bright white. It’s estimated that rhizomes can grow up to an inch a day and span as far as ten feet from the mother plant.

How to Get Rid of It

One of the biggest challenges in eradicating Quackgrass is the rhizome systems underneath. Some homeowners till their yards with plans to reseed, thinking this might end the weed’s growth.

Unfortunately, if not tilled deeply enough, the tiller will cut the tops of the rhizomes allowing them to continue growing and producing below. If choosing this method, it’s important to note that the roots can be as deep as eight inches below ground.

The best way to eliminate Quackgrass is by using a chemical weed killer containing Glyphosate. Glyphosate is non-selective and very potent. Be sure to use caution when spraying, as it will kill almost anything it touches.

If the weed is well established, completing the job may take more than one application.

If you aren’t keen on using chemical weed killers, there are ways to naturally rid your lawn of this weed. Look at our post How to Kill Weeds with Vinegar, for ideas on DIY solutions. Remember that DIY weed killers may not be as potent as chemical ones and require multiple applications.

Ways to Use Quackgrass

As annoying as Quackgrass can be, it may surprise you that it can be used for good things too! In some cases, this grass is planted on purpose for various uses.

For Animals

Cattle, sheep, and horses love to snack on Quackgrass, while pigs enjoy rooting and eating the rhizomes. The weed is full of fiber and easy to digest. Because of this, some farmers purposely plant this weed in their pastures to maintain a fast-growing, affordable fodder system.

For Humans

Young shoots of Quackgrass can be foraged and used in an early springtime salad, they add a sweet crunch and an extra kick of fiber.

Although each plant only produces about 25 seeds, some enjoy these seeds as cereal.

The roots, or rhizomes, can be dried and ground as flour or a coffee alternative. The roots have a sweet taste and are rich in fiber.

The weed’s rhizomes are used for medicinal purposes as well. Used as a urinary tract tonic, tea made with dried leaves can treat things like kidney stones and urinary tract infections.


In the wild, a couch grass (Elymus repens) cereal plant grows in the meadow

What is the life expectancy of Quackgrass?

Believe it or not, this pesky weed has a life expectancy of 2-4 years. It’s estimated that 90% of the seeds carried by birds or brought in by straw bales will germinate.

Is Quackgrass harmful to my dog?

Not at all! Because Quackgrass can grow so tall, dogs enjoy nipping and playing with it before munching on it! This weed is not harmful to any animals.

Can Quackgrass be crowded out by other grasses or plants?

While this can be very difficult to accomplish, it can be done. The most important step is applying fertilizer to the plants you want to grow while cautioning not to fertilize the Quackgrass.

Wrapping Up Quackgrass

Depending on your point of view, quackgrass is either a landscaping headache for homeowners or it’s a useful plant for treating common infections or providing nutrients for grazing animals.

Like most things, a little too much of something good can be harmful, which seems to be the case with this weed.

If this pesky weed falls into the headache category, you know how to eliminate it from your garden or landscape.

Now that you know all about Quackgrass, you may have questions about other types of plants you see popping up in your lawn or other parts of your yard. If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.