Pictured above: Hordeum jubatum

This genus is characterized by a spike-like panicle with 3 spiklets per node, each 1-flowered. The central spikelet is fertile and sessile and the other 2 are on pedicels and staminate, or have empty glumes. The whole inflorescence shatters on maturity.

There are 3 species in MN; 2 are native.

Common species:
Hordeum jubatum (hor' dee um / juu bay' tum)

  • Synonyms: None
  • Common names: foxtail barley, squirrel-tail grass; Lakota: ite asniyanpi, peji jiji
  • Origin and habitat: Native; weedy along roadsides and in old fields
  • Identifying characters: Stems are densely clustered and up to 4.5 dm tall (though usually less). Leaves vary from being glabrous to scabrous to pubescent and ligules are up to 1 mm. The 2 outer spikelets are rudimentary and at a quick glance they might be mistaken for additional glumes. Glumes and the fertile lemmas have long awns.
  • Comments: This is a weedy native common along roadsides and heavily trampled areas. Apparently tolerant of road salt, it can frequently be found along metropolitan roadways. Squirrel-tail grass is an annual with very narrow, erect inflorescences. In the early summer the inflorescence appears quite silky and in various shades of green to red, but it stiffens and darkens (more golden) with age. Occasionally it might be found planted as an ornamental and is reported to have some slight value for pulmonary and urinary disorders. Roots of the related introduced species H. vulgare supposedly were used in moist compresses by Ojibway to treat eye inflammations. The bristle-like glumes and awns irritate the nostrils and eyes of grazing livestock, even when young. The other native species, H. pusillum or little barley, is found in the upper Minnesota River valley and the prairie d’couteau region in the southwest corner of the state.


Hordeum Jubatum mapHordeum Pusillum Map   

Additional species in Minnesota:
H. pusillum
H. vulgare

Copyright 2002, A.F. Cholewa, J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota / No portion of this guide may be duplicated without written permission of author.