The Grass Route (Japanese: ポポッコ！くさポケモンバトル！！Popocco! Grass Pokémon Battle!!) is the 178th episode of the Pokémon anime. It was first broadcast in Japan on December 21, 2000 and in the United States on November 3, 2001.
En route to Ecruteak, Ash and company are caught by the sight of a Skiploom racing by. Following after it, they encounter its trainer, Ephram. He and his Skiploom are training for the upcoming annual Grass-Type tournament, a contest for Grass Pokémon only. Confident he can win any local tournament, Ash decides he and Bulbasaur will enter as well. Ephram and his Skiploom train hard as the tournament quickly approaches. However, Ash doesn't think it is necessary for someone of his Pokémon prowess to prepare. Find out who triumphs as young Ephram and Ash face off in the final round of the tournament!
Brock informs Ash that Ecruteak City is on the other side of the upcoming mountain, and the news instantly gets Ash hyped for his next Gym match. The group notices an array of Grass-type Pokémon around them, but a running Skiploom grabs their attention. Ash's group follows the Pokémon and soon encounters its Trainer, a young boy named Ephraim. Ephraim introduces his Skiploom as "Skippy", and asks Ash if he is a Trainer, and Ash shows Ephraim his three Badges as proof. Ephraim immediately challenges Ash to a battle against one of his Grass-types, eager to train Skippy. Ash accepts, calling upon his Chikorita. After a Tackle attack fails to work, Ephraim calls for Skippy to use its Double Team, and Chikorita is dazed by Skippy's speed. Ash orders Chikorita's to use Razor Leaf, which successfully knocks away the clones and hits the real Skippy. Ephraim watches as Skippy bounces back onto its feet and he orders a Leech Seed. Chikorita batters the seeds away with a Vine Whip before knocking Skippy out with a direct Tackle. Ash celebrates his victory, but Misty scolds him, saying he should be ashamed of how badly he hurt Ephraim's Skiploom. Skippy proves to be fine, and Ephraim invites the Trainers back to his house.
At his house, Ephraim introduces the group to his parents. Ephraim's father reassures his son that even though he lost, at least he learned some valuable tricks from an experienced Trainer like Ash. He then offers Ash and his friends a place to stay for the night, and Ash happily accepts the kind offer. Misty then turns her attention to the flowers growing inside the house, and Ephraim's mother admits that the family's Grass Pokémon helped. Everyone goes outside to watch the Grass Pokémon water the fields of flowers and admire their peaceful natures. Ephraim is quick to add that Grass Pokémon can be tough as well. He then tells Ash that the reason he challenged him is because he and his Skiploom are training for the upcoming annual Grass Tournament. The Grass Tournament is a competition for Grass Pokémon only, with a large collection of Leaf Stones as the prize. Confident he can win any "local" tournament, Ash decides he and his Bulbasaur will enter as well. Meanwhile, Team Rocket finds a flyer advertising the Grass Tournament and decides that they will also compete, in the hopes of winning the prize of Leaf Stones. James plans to use his Victreebel, but Jessie, having no Grass-type Pokémon, considers having Meowthdisguise himself as a Sunflora. That evening, Ephraim is seen training with Skippy and practicing their Double Team and speed moves. Misty asks Ash if he is planning to train, but Ash arrogantly replies that a small local tournament is far too easy for him, and he does not need to train.
The following day, the tournament begins. Ash is the first to battle, facing a Trainer with a Gloom. Ash and Bulbasaur manage to defeat their opponent with a single attack, advancing Ash to the next round. Ephraim's first round battle is against James, posing as "Mr. Semaj" and his Victreebel. Though intimidated at first, Ephraim and Skippy manage to easily take down Victreebel with Leech Seed followed by a Double Team. The moment he wins the match, Ephraim's parents rejoice over their son's accomplishment, much to Ephraim's embarrassment.
Ash's second round battle is shown after, and he challenges Jessie and a disguised Meowth. Bulbasaur uses Razor Leaf, but the attack reveals Mewoth's true identity and Jessie's dishonesty. At this, the Team Rocket trio removes their disguises and recites their motto. The three try to steal the Leaf Stones, but Ash blasts them off with Bulbasaur's Vine Whip. Afterwards a montage is shown of Ash and Ephraim winning their rounds in the tournament with relative ease.
The final matchup is between Ephraim and Skippy versus Ash and his Bulbasaur. At first, Ash and Bulbasaur dominate the match, smashing through Skippy's Double Team offensives. After a few exchanges of attacks, Ash tells Ephraim he doesn't want to harm the Skiploom any more than necessary. Ephraim asks Skippy if it is okay to keep fighting or if it would like to stop. Skiploom affirms that it wants to continue, and Ephraim agrees and tells Skippy to do whatever it takes to win. At this, Skiploom unleashes a powerful Solar Beam attack, must to everyone's shock. This unexpected attack hits Bulbasaur directly and sends it flying. Bulbasaur is finished off with a Tackle attack from Skippy, winning Ephraim the match and the tournament. Later, as Ephraim is handed the trophy, Ash remembers that pride and power aren't the only things a Trainer needs to win a battle. After this lesson in humility, Ash, Misty, and Brock continue their journey.