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Common Name: Couch Grass
Elytrigia repens is a perennial plant that can grow up to 0.60 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Most of Europe, including Britain, N. Africa, Siberia and N. America.
A common weed of gardens, fields, hedgerows and meadows[
Couch grass can succeed in any soil, though it grows best in light sandy soils[
]. 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[
] and quickly forming a dense mat of roots in the soil that strangles other plant growth[
]. 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[
]. 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[
Roots - cooked. They can be dried and ground into a powder, then used with wheat when making bread[
]. Although thin and stringy, the roots contain starch and enzymes and are quite sweet[
]. 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[
The roasted root is a coffee substitute[
Young leaves and shoots - eaten raw in spring salads[
]. A slightly sweet flavour, though quickly becoming very fibrous, they are rather less than wonderful[
]. The juice from these shoots is sometimes used as a spring tonic[
]. A cereal mash can be made from them[
]. The seed is very small and there is a large husk surrounding it, so that effectively it is more like eating fibre than cereal[
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[
]. They have a gentle remedial effect which is well-tolerated by the body and has no side-effects[
]. This plant is also a favourite medicine of domestic cats and dogs, who will often eat quite large quantities of the leaves[
The roots are antiphlogistic, aperient, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, lithontripic and tonic[
]. They are harvested in the spring and can be dried for later use[
A tea made from the roots is used in cases of urinary incompetence and as a worm expellent[
]. It is also an effective treatment for urinary tract infections such as cystitis and urethritis[
]. It both protects the urinary tubules against infections and irritants, and increases the volume of urine thereby diluting it[
]. Externally it is applied as a wash to swollen limbs[
An infusion of the whole plant is a good liquid plant feed[
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[
A grey dye is obtained from the roots[
This species is a pernicious weed and will not require assistance in spreading itself.