Foxtail barley

Encyclopedia Article

Foxtail barley                                  Hordeum jubatum L.

Family:  Poaceae                                                             
Life cycle:   Perennial, short-lived
Native status:  NativeHabitat:  Waste areas, small grains                          

General description:  Bunch grass, bluish green, reaching heights of 20 inches.   Short, membranous ligule, leaf sheaths and blades usually smooth.

Key ID traits:  Awns 1 to 2.5 inches long; seedhead a nodding spike up to 5 inches long.  Terminal spikelets fall off spike resulting in a shortening of the seedhead as it matures.

Similar species:  Foxtail barley is frequently called squirreltail, although there is a different plant with that common name (Elymus elymoides).

Miscellaneous:  Awns of mature plants can cause severe injury to eyes and mouths of grazing animals.  Tolerates saline soils.

Leaves of foxtail barley are erect and often have a bluish-green cast.

Foxtail barley is usually found in dense patches in areas with little competing vegetation and management efforts.

An otherwise non-descript plant, the long awns are what captures people's attention.

Seed mature from the end of the spike and drop off, thus the spike of foxtail barley becomes shorter with maturity.