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Lyme Grass

Leymus arenarius

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, Alpine Foxtail, Alpine Meadow-grass, Annual Beard-grass, Annual Meadow-grass, Arrow Bamboo, Barren Brome Grass, Bearded Couch Grass, Bearded Fescue, Bermuda Grass, Black Bent, Black Grass, Blue Fescue, Blue Moor-grass, Bog Hair-grass, Borrer's Saltmarsh Grass, Bread Wheat, Bristle Bent, Brown Bent, Brown Sedge, Bulbous Foxtail, Bulbous Meadow-grass, California Brome Grass, Canary Grass, Carnation Sedge, Cocksfoot, Cockspur, Common Bent, Common Cord-grass, Common Millet, Common Reed, Common Saltmarsh Grass, Compact Brome Grass, Corn, Couch Grass, Creeping Bent, Creeping Soft-grass, Crested Dog's-tail, Crested Hair-grass, Cultivated Oat, Curved Hard Grass, Cut Grass, Dense Silky Bent, Downy Oat-grass, Drooping Brome Grass, Drooping Tor Grass, Dune Fescue, Early Hair-grass, Early Meadow-grass, Early Sand-grass, False Brome Grass, False Oat-grass, Fern Grass, Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue, Flattened Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Foxtail Barley, French Oat, Giant Fescue, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Great Brome Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Grey Hair-grass, Hairy Brome Grass, Hairy Finger-grass, Hard Fescue, Hard Grass, Harestail Grass, Heath Grass, Holy Grass, Hybrid Marram Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Knotroot Bristlegrass, Lesser Hairy Brome Grass, Lesser Quaking Grass, Loose Silky Bent, Marram Grass, Marsh Foxtail, Mat Grass, Mat-grass Fescue, Meadow Barley, Meadow Fescue, Meadow Foxtail, Meadow Oat-grass, Mountain Melick, Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass, Narrow-leaved Small-reed, Neglected Couch Grass, Nit Grass, Orange Foxtail, Pampas Grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Plicate Sweet-grass, Purple Moor-grass, Purple Small-reed, Purple-stem Catstail, Quaking Grass, Ratstail Fescue, Red Fescue, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet-grass, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass, Rescue Grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Rush-leaved Fescue, Sand Catstail, Sand Couch Grass, Scandinavian Small-reed, Scottish Small-reed, Sea Barley, Sea Couch Grass, Sea Fern Grass, Sheep's Fescue, Silver Hair-grass, Six-rowed Barley, Slender Brome Grass, Small Cord-grass, Small Sweet-grass, Smaller Catstail, Smooth Brome Grass, Smooth Cord-grass, Smooth Finger-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Soft Brome Grass, Somerset Hair-grass, Sorghum, Spreading Meadow-grass, Squirreltail Fescue, Stiff Brome Grass, Stiff Saltmarsh Grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy Grass, Tor Grass, Tufted Hair-grass, Two-rowed Barley, Upright Brome Grass, Velvet Bent, Viviparous Fescue, Wall Barley, Wavy Hair-grass, Wavy Meadow-grass, Whorl Grass, Wild Oat, Wood Barley, Wood Fescue, Wood Meadow-grass, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Yellow Oat-grass, Yorkshire Fog
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Beaches, saltmarshes, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside.

Green, no petals
Bluish spikelets in pairs going up the stem. The flowers fade to straw-coloured over time. Wind pollinated.
The fruit is a caryopsis which is common to all grass species. A caryopsis is a kind of dry, one-seeded fruit. The seeds ripen in September and October.
A perennial grass species with stout, silvery bluish-grey foliage. The leaves are broad but linear.
Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius) has a subtle, fresh fragrance. The grass emits a delicate, earthy scent, often reminiscent of the coastal environment it typically inhabits. Its fragrance can be described as mildly sweet with hints of saltiness, evoking the natural essence of the seaside.
Other Names:
Blue Lyme Grass, European Dune Grass, Sand Ryegrass, Sea Lyme Grass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Leymus arenarius, also known as European dune grass or lyme grass, is a species of grass in the genus Leymus. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is commonly found in coastal dune systems and other sandy habitats. It is a perennial grass that forms dense, sod-forming colonies and can grow to a height of up to 1 meter tall. The leaves are long and narrow, and the plant produces spikes of small, greenish-brown flowers in the summer.

This species is tolerant to salt and sand, so it's able to colonize and stabilize sandy and saline habitats such as coastal dunes, salt marshes and sandy soils. As a result, it is often used in coastal dune stabilization and restoration projects. It's a good plant for erosion control in sand dune habitats and it provides valuable habitat for wildlife and many threatened species. Additionally, it's also suitable for landscaping and ornamental horticulture.


Lyme Grass, also known as Leymus arenarius, is a perennial grass species that is native to coastal regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a popular plant for use in landscaping due to its adaptability to harsh coastal conditions, erosion control capabilities, and ornamental qualities. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics, uses, and benefits of Lyme Grass.


Lyme Grass is a clump-forming grass that can reach up to 3 feet in height and spread up to 5 feet wide. It has blue-green leaves that are 1-2 feet long and 1/4 inch wide, with sharp edges that can cut human skin. The leaves grow in a dense clump, forming a fountain-like shape that sways beautifully in the wind. The plant produces tall, erect flower stalks that can reach up to 6 feet in height and are topped with seed heads in late summer. The seed heads are slender, slightly curved, and light brown in color.


Lyme Grass is a versatile plant that can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  1. Landscaping: Lyme Grass is a popular choice for landscaping in coastal regions due to its ability to withstand harsh conditions such as salt spray and wind. It is commonly used as a border plant, ground cover, or in mass plantings.

  2. Erosion control: Lyme Grass is a valuable plant for stabilizing sand dunes and preventing erosion along shorelines. Its deep roots help to anchor the soil in place and prevent sand from blowing away.

  3. Wildlife habitat: Lyme Grass provides habitat and food for a variety of wildlife, including birds and insects.

  4. Ornamental: Lyme Grass is a beautiful plant that adds texture and movement to any landscape. Its unique blue-green color and fountain-like shape make it an attractive addition to gardens, parks, and other public spaces.


Lyme Grass offers a range of benefits, including:

  1. Low maintenance: Lyme Grass is a low-maintenance plant that requires little water and fertilizer once established. It is also resistant to pests and diseases.

  2. Drought tolerant: Lyme Grass is drought tolerant and can survive in areas with little rainfall or irrigation.

  3. Erosion control: Lyme Grass is an effective erosion control plant that helps to stabilize soil and prevent sand from blowing away.

  4. Carbon sequestration: Lyme Grass is a carbon sink, meaning it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in its tissues. This makes it a valuable plant for combating climate change.

More Information

Lyme Grass is a versatile and valuable plant that offers a range of benefits for landscaping, erosion control, and wildlife habitat. Its adaptability to harsh coastal conditions, low maintenance requirements, and ornamental qualities make it a popular choice for gardens and public spaces. With its deep roots, drought tolerance, and carbon sequestration capabilities, Lyme Grass is also an important tool for combating climate change and preserving our planet's fragile coastal ecosystems.

Lyme Grass, also known as Sand Rye or Sea Lyme Grass, has been used for centuries by coastal communities as a source of food, fiber, and medicine. The young shoots of the plant can be eaten raw or cooked, and are rich in vitamins and minerals. The fibers of the plant were traditionally used for making rope, baskets, and clothing. The plant has also been used in traditional medicine to treat a range of ailments, including respiratory infections, rheumatism, and skin conditions.

In addition to its practical uses, Lyme Grass has cultural and historical significance. In Europe, the plant is associated with coastal traditions and folklore, and is often featured in art, literature, and music. In North America, the plant has been used by Indigenous communities for centuries, and is an important part of their cultural heritage.

Despite its many benefits, Lyme Grass can also be invasive in some areas, and may outcompete native species. As such, it is important to consider the potential ecological impacts of planting Lyme Grass, and to ensure that it is used responsibly and in accordance with local regulations.

Lyme Grass is a plant that can grow in a variety of soil types, including sandy and loamy soils, and can tolerate a range of pH levels. It is a salt-tolerant plant, which makes it an ideal choice for landscaping in coastal areas, where salt spray can damage other plants. The plant is also tolerant of drought, making it an ideal choice for areas with limited rainfall.

In terms of propagation, Lyme Grass can be grown from seed or by division of established clumps. The plant prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and should be watered regularly until established.

One of the challenges associated with Lyme Grass is its tendency to spread rapidly and form large clumps, which can be difficult to control. To prevent the plant from becoming invasive, it is important to monitor its growth and to remove any spreading clumps as necessary. In addition, planting Lyme Grass in areas where it is unlikely to escape, such as gardens or other controlled environments, can help to minimize the risk of invasiveness.

In terms of pests and diseases, Lyme Grass is relatively resistant to both, making it a low-maintenance plant. However, like all plants, it can be susceptible to certain issues, such as rust, fungal diseases, and aphids. Regular monitoring and maintenance can help to prevent and control these issues.

In conclusion, Lyme Grass is a versatile and valuable plant with many practical uses and benefits. Its adaptability to coastal conditions, low maintenance requirements, and ornamental qualities make it an ideal choice for landscaping, erosion control, and wildlife habitat. However, it is important to use the plant responsibly and in accordance with local regulations to prevent potential invasiveness and ecological impacts.

Some Additional Facts About Lyme Grass

Here are 20 facts about Lyme Grass:

  1. Scientifically known as Leymus arenarius, Lyme Grass is a perennial grass native to Europe and the coasts of North America.
  2. It's a vital sand-binding grass, playing a significant role in stabilizing coastal sand dunes.
  3. Lyme Grass has strong, extensive rhizomes that help in sand stabilization and erosion control.
  4. This grass grows in dense, tufted clumps and can reach heights of up to 3 feet (1 meter).
  5. The leaves are bluish-green, elongated, and can have rough or smooth textures depending on the variety.
  6. Lyme Grass flowers from late spring to early summer, producing dense spikelets in a wheat-like appearance.
  7. It's a halophytic grass, meaning it can tolerate and even thrive in saline or salty environments.
  8. The plant is remarkably resilient, capable of withstanding harsh coastal conditions, including salt spray and strong winds.
  9. Lyme Grass plays a crucial role in the ecological succession of dune ecosystems by helping other plants establish themselves in the sand.
  10. It's often used in dune restoration and stabilization projects to prevent erosion and enhance biodiversity.
  11. The grass effectively traps windblown sand, gradually building up dunes and creating a more stable environment for other vegetation to take root.
  12. Lyme Grass has been introduced in various parts of the world to combat desertification and stabilize shifting sands.
  13. The rhizomes of Lyme Grass can spread rapidly, aiding in the formation of large, cohesive dune systems.
  14. This grass has both environmental and economic significance due to its ability to protect coastlines and create a barrier against storm surges and erosion.
  15. Lyme Grass also offers habitats for various animal species, such as insects and birds, contributing to coastal biodiversity.
  16. It has been used historically for thatching roofs and as fodder for livestock.
  17. Lyme Grass has adapted to thrive in a range of conditions, from sandy beaches to coastal cliffs.
  18. It's considered an invasive species in some regions where it has been introduced, outcompeting native vegetation.
  19. The grass is remarkably drought-tolerant, making it suitable for arid coastal environments.
  20. Conservation efforts often involve managing Lyme Grass to maintain a balance between its erosion control benefits and its impact on native flora.

These facts demonstrate the significance of Lyme Grass in coastal ecosystems and its multifaceted role in stabilizing and enhancing these environments.


Lyme Grass filmed at Sandscale Haws in Cumbria on the 8th July 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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