Elymus arenarius L.
Elymus geniculatus Curtis
Elymus geniculatus Curtis ex Sm.
Frumentum arenarium (L.) E.H.L.Krause
Hordeum arenarium (L.) Asch.
Hordeum villosum Moench
Triticum arenarium (L.) F.Herm.
Common Name: Lyme Grass
Leymus arenarius is a perennial, clump-forming grass with creeping rhizomes; it produces erect, stout culms around 60 - 200cm tall, spreading to form large colonies.
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials. A nutritious food, it was cultivated by the Vikings as a cereal crop in the past in areas such as Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland, and has the potential to be grown in the artic regions where no other suitable agricultural crop is forthcoming[
]. It has an extensive root system and is often grown along coasts in order to bind the sand.
Northern and western Europe - Scandanavia, Britain and Spain, east to western Russia and Ukraine
Open sand and dunes by the coast, often in association with Ammophila arenaria[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
An easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils, preferring a sandy soil[
] and a sunny position[
]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[
A very invasive plant, spreading by means of its wide-ranging roots[
Leymus arenarius has the potential to become a cereal crop at latitudes much further north than any existing cereal crops can be grown, in land seen as unsuitable for agricultural crops. Yields from wild plants can be around 600 - 800 kilos per hectare and this has the potential for considerable improvement[
]. The Viking settlers of Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland cultivated it as a cereal for hundreds of years until the beginning of the 20th century[
The plant is cultivated in Japan for making mats etc[
Seed - cooked[
]. It can be ground into a flour and used to make bread[
]. A delicious taste[
] but very fiddly to use, the seed is small and hard to extract[
]. When cooked like rice, it can be used as a sweet or savoury dish. Mixed 50/50 with wheat flour it adds a richness to biscuits etc[
]. The protein content of this grain is said to rival that of red beans or salmon[
]. (This report seems somewhat surprising, protein levels are not usually anywhere near that high in a cereal[
The plants have a very extensive root system and so they are often planted near the coast in order to stabilize sand dunes[
]. They can also be used as a ground cover for sandy open spaces but can be invasive[
The leaves are used for making mats, rope, paper etc[
]. The leaves are a useful material for weaving baskets, making mats etc[
Seed - sow mid spring in situ and only just cover the seed[
]. 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[
Division in spring or summer[
]. 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.