quackgrass

Quackgrass (Elymus repens). Photo: Elizabeth Bella, AECOM, Bugwood.org

Updated: July 20, 2021

Life cycle

Quackgrass (Elymus repens) is a perennial, non-native, cool-season grass.

Growth habit

This plant has a creeping habit and can grow up to 3 feet tall. The leaf blades are blue-green in color and have a rough texture. There is a clasping auricle where the base of the leaf meets the stem.

quackgrass
Quackgrass growth pattern. Photo: HGIC, University of Maryland

Reproduction

Sharp-tipped, creeping rhizomes. The seed head forms in the summer and resembles wheat.

Conditions that favor growth 

Poor lawn maintenance practices.

Photos

Auricle

Quackgrass has a small appendage (auricle) that clasps around the stem.

Photo: Ohio State Weed Lab, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Seedhead

Quackgrass seedheads are spikes with seeds arranged in two rows.

Photo: Ohio State Weed Lab, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Root system

Quackgrass spreads by underground rhizomes.

Photo: Ohio State Weed Lab, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Management in lawns

Cultural lawn care practices

  • Maintain healthy, dense turf that can prevent and help lawns outcompete a weed infestation.

Mechanical management

  • Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and when weeds are young.  Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. Weeds with taproots like dandelions or have a basal rosette (leaves clustered close to the ground), like plantain, are easier to pull than weeds such as Bermudagrass (wiregrass) or creepig Charlie (ground ivy) that spread with stolons or creeping stems that root along the ground.

Chemical Treatment in Lawns

  • Herbicides should be used as a last resort because of the potential risks to people, animals, and the environment. Be aware of these lawn herbicide precautions first. 
  • Herbicides for controlling perennial grass weeds are limited and usually available to lawn care companies and landscapers who are certified applicators. Small infestations can be dug out or sprayed with a non-selective herbicide (glyphosate). Reseed the area after you are certain that you have 100% kill.