Rope Twitch (or English Couch Grass)

What is rope twitch?

(Elytrigia repens)
Rope Twitch, photo: CDFA

  • Rope twitch is a significant weed of crops, pastures and gardens in Tasmania.

How to identify rope twitch

  • Rope twitch is an erect, perennial (long lived) grass with numerous rhizomes (underground-stems). In pastures and mown areas rope twitch sometimes assumes a prostrate (ground hugging) habit and may not produce flowering stems.
  • Rope twitch produces an extensive root system with many rhizomes. The rhizomes are white in colour and may be several metres long. Shoots and roots develop from nodes along the rhizome.
  • The leaves are medium to light green in colour and are finely pointed at the tips. In cross section the leaf forms a flat "V".
  • The flowers consist of spikelets arranged alternately in two rows, one on each side of the stem.
  • For further help in identifying rope twitch, search the Dennis Morris Weeds and Endemic Flora database for rope twitch illustrations. If you are still in doubt about the weed you are dealing with, contact your Regional Weed Management Officer on 1300 368 550 for help.

Rope Twitch, photo: Keir Morse
Image top: Rope twitch, photo: CDFA
Image above: Rope twitch grass stem, photo: Keir Morse

Rope twitch in Tasmania

  • Rope twitch is not declared in Tasmania.
  • Rope twitch is widespread in agricultural and horticultural areas in Tasmania. In recent years it has become widespread in the intensively cropped areas of the North-West coast. It is also common in parks and recreation areas, and in domestic gardens.
  • Rope Twitch is a serious weed in areas of annual cropping, particularly for crops such as onions. If present at moderate to high densities, rope twitch reduces the yield of all crops, including cereals.
  • Rope Twitch is not normally a problem in vigorous, well managed pasture with adequate water supply. However where pasture vigour declines rope twitch can quickly dominate. In pasture on light textured soils, rope twitch may form dense mats which exclude all other pasture species. Its occasional prostrate (or ground hugging) habit in pasture makes it of little value for grazing.
  • In gardens rope twitch is considered one of the worst weeds in Tasmania. It can infest all areas including herbaceous borders, ornamentals shrub beds, vegetable gardens, potted plants and lawns. If allowed to proliferate unchecked it can become the dominant plant in the garden.
Detailed management and control guidelines for rope twitch can be found in the Rope Twitch Control Guide. Refer also to Herbicides for Rope Twitch Control. For further information see DPIPWE's Weed Links and Resources.

See also
Rope Twitch Control Guide
Herbicides for Rope Twitch Control
Weed Links and Resources

Other useful links
Pest Genie

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