Elymus repens - (L.) Gould
Creeping Wild Rye
Other English Common Names: Couchgrass, Quackgrass
Other Common Names: quackgrass
Synonym(s): Elytrigia repens (L.) Desv. ex B.D. Jackson
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Elymus repens (L.) Gould (TSN 512839)
French Common Names: chiendent commun
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.127983
Element Code: PMPOA7H010
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Grass Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Monocotyledoneae Cyperales Poaceae Elymus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Elytrigia repens
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Reviewed: 26Jun2006
Global Status Last Changed: 26Jun2006
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (07Mar2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alaska (SNA), Arizona (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), Nevada (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada Alberta (SNA), British Columbia (SNA), Labrador (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Northwest Territories (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Nunavut (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (SNA), Saskatchewan (SNA), Yukon Territory (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Elymus repens is native to Eurasia (temperate Europe and Central Asia: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan).

(As an exotic, it can be found in parts of South America (Argentina and Chile) and in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia (Batcher, 2002). This species is found in every state in the U.S. and in Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia and North to the Yukon (Werner and Rioux, 1977). Quackgrass has been listed among the most frequently listed in a recently compiled database of noxious weeds in the United States and Canada (Skinner et al., 2000).)

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Elymus repens is native to Eurasia (temperate Europe and Central Asia: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan).

(As an exotic, it can be found in parts of South America (Argentina and Chile) and in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia (Batcher, 2002). This species is found in every state in the U.S. and in Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia and North to the Yukon (Werner and Rioux, 1977). Quackgrass has been listed among the most frequently listed in a recently compiled database of noxious weeds in the United States and Canada (Skinner et al., 2000).)

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AKexotic, ARexotic, AZexotic, CAexotic, COexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NEexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NVexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SDexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WYexotic
Canada ABexotic, BCexotic, LBexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, NFexotic, NSexotic, NTexotic, NUexotic, ONexotic, PEexotic, QCexotic, SKexotic, YTexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History
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Habitat Comments: Weed in disturbed areas cultivated fields; <1800 m.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: High/Medium
Rounded I-Rank: High
I-Rank Reasons Summary: This species is widespread occurring in nearly every U.S. state but local expansion is still occurring particularly in the western states. Negative impacts are significant as this species has the potential to form dense, monospecific stands, and aggressive rhizomes can outcompete native grasses suppressing growth and reproductive vigor. The species has moderate invasive capability into native habitats and is difficult, costly, and time consuming to control, often negatively affecting native species during management efforts.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: High
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Medium/Low
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: High/Medium
I-Rank Review Date: 27Jun2006
Evaluator: J. Cordeiro, rev. K. Gravuer
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Elymus repens is native to Eurasia (temperate Europe and Central Asia: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan), but can be found in parts of South America (Argentina and Chile) and in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia (Batcher, 2002).

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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: The species is widely distributed as an invasive across North America and is especially invasive in grass prairie and/or wetlands of western North America (Batcher, 2002).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: The species is widely distributed as an invasive across North America and is especially invasive in grass prairie and/or wetlands of western North America (Batcher, 2002).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Low significance
Comments: Quackgrass consumes soil moisture and key nutrients (N, P, K) which it removes from the soil during the growing season with possible potential to change ecosystem dynamics (Batcher, 2002).

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Moderate significance
Comments: Dense occurrences can exclude the regeneration of native woody species where it forms dense stands (Batcher, 2002).

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Elymus repens can form extensive rhizomes that enable it to compete strongly with native grasses and forbs in prairies and grasslands. Once established, it can outcompete and exclude native vegetation resulting in loss of overall biodiversity. As a cool-season grass that can photosynthesize and grow during early spring before other grasses, E. repens can suppress species that grow during the later, warmer part of the growing season (Batcher, 2002). Quackgrass has been listed among the 10 most frequently listed in a recently compiled database of noxious weeds in the United States and Canada (Skinner et al., 2000).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Low significance
Comments: Elymus repens has been shown to produce ethylacetate extracts (phototoxins) exuded from shoots and roots which may be allelopathic and can suppress growth or reproductive vigor of competing plant species (Batcher, 2002).

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Habitat includes natural terrestrial grassland communities, mixed-grass prairies, open woodlands, wet prairies and riparian corridors (Batcher, 2002; Czarapata, 2005).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: High

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: This species is found in every state in the U.S. and in Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia and North to the Yukon (Werner and Rioux, 1977). Quackgrass has been listed among the most frequently listed in a recently compiled database of noxious weeds in the United States and Canada (Skinner et al., 2000).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:High/Moderate significance
Comments: This species is considered invasive throughout North America but particularly so in western North America where it invades wet meadows, wetland borders and other low-lying wet areas of grasslands and prairies (Batcher, 2002). Quackgrass has been listed among the most frequently listed in a recently compiled database of noxious weeds in the United States and Canada (Skinner et al., 2000).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: It is conservatively estimated that over the vast majority of ecoregions have been invaded by Elymus repens in the United States (Cordeiro, pers. obs., April 2006, based on TNC, 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: Habitat includes natural terrestrial grassland communities as well as in agricultural fields in temperate North America. It is found primarily in open areas with moderate to high nutrient levels. Such areas may include mixed-grass prairies and open woodlands, as well as wet prairies or riparian corridors (Batcher, 2002; Czarapata, 2005).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Medium/Low

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Low significance
Comments: Already established throughout most of the US and restricted from the southeastern states where not yet established by low tolerance of hot summers. This species is considered invasive throughout North America but particularly so in western North America where it invades wet meadows, wetland borders and other low-lying wet areas of grasslands and prairies (Batcher, 2002). Quackgrass has been listed among the most frequently listed in a recently compiled database of noxious weeds in the United States and Canada (Skinner et al., 2000).

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: This species is found in every state in the U.S. and in Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia and North to the Yukon (Werner and Rioux, 1977). Quackgrass has been listed among the most frequently listed in a recently compiled database of noxious weeds in the United States and Canada (Skinner et al., 2000). Potential is still high for expansion into native grassland areas that have not yet been impacted, but total range cannot expand much beyond where it already occurs because it is so widespread.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: Seed dispersal mechanisms are largely unknown but the species is wind-pollinated and may also, therefore, be wind dispersed (Werner and Rioux, 1977). It has been spread anthropogenically through planting for nutrient reclamation from sewage effluent sprayed on fields and planting to revegetate mine tailings in Nova Scotia (not in U.S.). (Werner and Rioux, 1977). Also, many hybrid crosses have been developed and planted for livestock (Batcher, 2002).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Medium/Low significance
Comments: This species is considered invasive throughout North America but particularly so in western North America where it invades wet meadows, wetland borders and other low-lying wet areas of grasslands and prairies (Batcher, 2002).

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is listed as an "invasive plant of lesser concern" in Czarapata (2005). The species is early successional (giving it an advantage as a colonizer over native grasses), has vigorous vegetative reproduction, and is tolerant of a variety of soil types, including saline conditions, but is intolerant of shade (moderately adaptable) (Batcher, 2002; Czarapata, 2005). Although it is found primarily in open areas with moderate to high nutrient levels (often agricultural), such areas may include mixed-grass prairies and open woodlands, as well as wet prairies or riparian corridors (Batcher, 2002).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Medium/Low significance

16. Reproductive Characteristics:High significance
Comments: This species spreads by both seeds and extensively creeping rhizomes and its long running rootstocks extend through the soil and send up numerous shoots, forming a loose but tough sod. It is wind pollinated and self-sterile with seed production generally at 25 to 40 per plant but ranging from 15 up to 400 seeds per culm. Alternating temperatures are required for germination (diurnal) and there is no after-ripening period. Seeds may remain dormant in soil for 2 to 3 years (Czarapata, 2005 cites 4 years) and can remain viable after passage through the domestic systems of domestic animals (Batcher, 2002). Vegetative reproduction is more important than seed reproduction (Werner and Rioux, 1977).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: High/Medium

17. General Management Difficulty:High/Moderate significance
Comments: This species is notoriously one of the most difficult weeds to control especially in cultivated fields. Because it is an early successional species, declines in abundance may occur with time with no active management as a grassland matures but as yet there have been no large abundance decreases or eradications with passive management. Contrary to what might be expected, cutting to manage reed beds has been found to result in a more diverse fauna than for unmanaged reed beds, except in the case with Elymus repens which seems to benefit from passive management in the United Kingdom (Cowie et al., 1992). In natural areas or wildlands, the application of selective herbicides (see Batcher, 2002, and Ivany, 2002, for herbicide summaries) can reduce populations of desirable native grasses but success for restoration of large scale infestations is probably low to moderately low unless the infested area is tilled, treated with herbicide, and reseeded (Batcher, 2002). Zero tillage herbicide application was found to be ineffective in reducing E. repens significantly (Harker and O'Sullivan, 1993). Burning alone has also met with little success (Batcher, 2002) and has even caused a doubling in both cover and frequency following burning (Stohlgren et al., 1999; Rice, 2005). Becker (1989 cited in Rice, 2005) found that the optimal timing for repeat burning (over five years) to suppress Kentucky bluegrass did not reduce quackgrass (Agropyron repens) canopy cover in southwest Minnesota because of the relatively later tiller elongation of the quackgrass. May burns producing ground surface temperatures of 248 to 617F (120 to 325C) were conducted in Kentucky bluegrass and quackgrass-dominated residential acquisitions at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Choi and Pavlovic, 1994). The burns did not decrease the targets on these exotic-grass-dominated sites.

18. Minimum Time Commitment:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is notoriously one of the most difficult weeds to control especially in cultivated fields. Although no method is adequately successful at controlling this species, herbicide application in combination with tilling or burning on a biennial schedule over several years may reduce abundance (Batcher, 2002; Ivany, 2002).

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Moderate significance
Comments: In managing formerly arable land that has been abandoned to natural grassland establishment, sowing a seed mixture (as opposed to letting grasses naturally grow) has been found to significantly reduce abundance and number of naturally colonizing grassy weed species, including Elymus repens in Scotland (Lawson et al., 2004). In natural areas or wildlands, the application of selective herbicides can reduce populations of desirable native grasses but success for restoration of large scale infestations is probably low to moderately low unless the infested area is tilled, treated with herbicide, and reseeded (Batcher, 2002). Unfortunately, tillage or burning is likely not an option in conservation areas or areas with species of conservation concern, and application of herbicides alone has been largely unsuccessful. Potential for control exists, but has not been explored, through fungal pathogens as quickgrass is infected by crown rust (Puccinia coronata) throughout North America, as well as in its native range in Eurasia (Torchin and Mitchell, 2004).

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Low significance
Comments: As this species frequently occurs on private land, particularly grasslands, some access issues will arise and cooperation with landownders for management will be necessary.
Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 02May2006
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: J. Cordiero

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Batcher, M.S.. 2002. Element stewardship abstract for Elytrigia repens var. repens (L.) Desv. ex B.D. Jackson: quackgrass. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Virginia. unpaginated.

  • Choi, Y.D. and N.D. Pavlovic. 1994. Comparison of fire, herbicide, and sod removal to control exoti vegetation. Natural Areas Jorunal, 14(3): 217-218.

  • Cowie, N.R., W.J. Sutherland, M.K.M. Ditlhogo, and R. James. 1992. The effects of conservation management of reed beds. II. The flora and litter disappearance. The Journal of Applied Ecology, 29(2): 277-284.

  • Crowe, J. 1994. Checklist of Vascular Plants of Thunder Bay District (Based on Garton 1984). Thunder Bay Field Naturalists, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario. 51 pp.

  • Czarapata, E.J. 2005. Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest. An Illustrated Guide to Their Identification and Control. The University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, Wisconsin. 215 pp.

  • Harker, K.N. and P.A. O'Sullivan. 1993. Herbicide comparisons on quackgrass (Elytrigia repens) within different crop competitioni and tillage conditions. Weed Science, 41(1): 94-99.

  • Hickman, J. C., ed. 1993. The Jepson manual: Higher plants of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 1400 pp.

  • Ivany, J.A. 2002. Control of quackgrass (Elytrigia repens) and broadleaf weeds and response of potato (Solanum tuberosum) cultivars to rimsulfuron. Weed Technology, 16: 261-266.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Lawson, C.S., M.A. Ford, and J. Mitchley. 2004. The influence of seed addition and cutting regime on the success of grassland restoration on former arable land. Applied Vegetation Science, 7: 259-266.

  • Meades, S.J. & Hay, S.G; Brouillet, L. 2000. Annotated Checklist of Vascular Plants of Newfoundland and Labrador. Memorial University Botanical Gardens, St John's NF. 237pp.

  • Oldham, M.J., and W.J. Crins. 1998. Atlas of the Vascular Flora of southern Ontario. Draft 2. Natural Heritage Information Centre, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Ontario. 378 pp.

  • Rice, P.M. 2005. Fire as a tool for controlling nonnative invasive plants. Report prepared for Center for Invasive Plant Management. Bozeman, Montana. 52 pp. Available at: http://www.weedcenter.org/management/tools.htm#burning.

  • Riley, J.L. 2002. The Flora of the Hudson Bay Lowland. Unpublished manuscript submitted to CRC press in February 2002. 107 pp.

  • Skinner, K., L. Smith, and P. Rice. 2000. Using noxious weed lists to prioritize targets for developing weed management strategies. Weed Science, 48: 640-644.

  • Stohlgren, T.J., D. Binkley, G.W. Chong, M.A. Kalkhan, L.D. Schell, K.A. Bull, Y. Otsuki, G. Newman, M. Bashkin, and Y. Son. 1999. Exotic plant species invade hot spots of native plant diversity. Ecological Monographs, 69(1): 25-36.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • Torchin, M.E. and C.E. Mitchell. 2004. Parasites, parthogens, and invasions by plants and animals. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, 2(4): 183-190.

  • Werner, P.A. and R.R. Rioux. 1977. The biology of Canadian weeds, part 24, Agropyron repens. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 57: 905-920.

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