Meadow Barley - Hordeum brachyantherum ssp brachyantherum

Family: (Poaceae (Grass family)) [E-flora]

Habitat / Range
Tidal marshes and moist to mesic saline meadows, sandy beaches and rocky bluffs in the lowland zone and mesic meadows and forest openings in the montane zone; common in coastal BC, infrequent elsewhere in BC north to 55 degrees N; N to AK and YT, E to SK and disjunctly E to NF and S to ME, NH, PA, IN, TX, NM, AZ and CA. [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]



General: Perennial, tufted grass from fibrous roots; stems (20) 40-80 (100) cm tall. [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: Sheaths open, smooth to finely more or less appressed-hairy or spreading hairy; blades smooth to finely more or less appressed-hairy or spreading hairy, 2-6 (9) mm wide; ear-shaped lobes at the leaf-bases lacking; ligules more or less fringed with fine hairs, barely 0.5 mm long. [IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers: Inflorescence an erect spike, 5-10 cm long, longer than wide; central spikelets unstalked, the lateral ones short-stalked, the stalks curved, stiff-hairy, about 1 mm long; glumes all slender, awnlike, 7-12 (20) mm long; central florets usually with awns exceeding the glumes, the lateral florets mostly sterile, often awnlike, but sometimes with all male flowers; lemma awns 5-10 (20) mm long; anthers 1-1.5 mm long. [IFBC-E-flora]
USDA Flower Colour: Yellow
USDA Blooming Period: Early Summer
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall [USDA-E-flora]


Annual to perennial herb, cespitose, occasionally from short rhizomes. Stem: decumbent to erect, generally abruptly bent at base; nodes glabrous or pubescent. Leaf: sheath glabrous or hairy; ligules translucent; auricles present or 0; blade flat or ± rolled. Inflorescence: spike-like, dense; axis breaking apart at nodes at maturity (except in Hordeum vulgare); spikelets 2-ranked, strongly overlapping, 3 per node (central + 2 lateral). Central spikelet: bisexual, generally sessile; with 1 stalked or sessile floret; glumes awn-like, generally > floret; lemma awned. Lateral spikelet: sterile or staminate (bisexual in Hordeum vulgare), generally short-stalked; floret 1, sessile; glumes awn-like, > floret, lemma generally awned.
32 species: temperate worldwide except Australia. (Latin: ancient name for barley) [von Bothmer et al. 2007 FNANM 24:241–252] As treated here, including Critesion. Hybridizes with Elymus to produce ×Elyhordeum species. Source of edible grains, sugar, ornamental, and weeds; enzymes from sprouts used in beer-making. Lemma or floret measurements do not include awns. Hordeum pusillum Nutt. has been reported for Ventura and San Diego cos., but it does not appear to be naturalized. [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Hordeum brachyantherum ssp brachyantherum - meadow barley
  2. Hordeum jubatum - foxtail barley
  3. Hordeum murinum - wall barley &


An interesting observation has been made in connection with biosynthetic studies in barley. The major alkaloid isolated from the seedlings of barley treated with ethylene oxide was found to be N-methyltyramine whereas normal plants were shown to produce hordenine and N-methyltyrosine in a ratio of 3 : 1. (E. Leete, R. M. Bowman, and M. F. Manuel, Phytochemistry, 1971,10, 3029. [Alkaloids4]
The well-known cultivated barley, Hordeum vulgare, is the only agriculturally acceptable member of this lineage. The lesser varieties are considered weeds, especially the fox tail barley, Hordeum jubatum, which has sharp-pointed spikes that can pierce the nose and mouth of foraging stock. But again, melatonin is present in the grain seed and the leaf also. [TIHKAL]

Caution: One report says that Hordeum vulgare contains Hordenine, another that it contains Gramine.[2]

Usage of Non-local Species;

Barley - Hordeum vulgare
Despite its well-documented origin in the Middle East as human food since earliest times(Zohary and Hopf, 2000), barley is seldom eaten in the Middle East, having been sup-planted by rice. Today, little barley is grown for human consumption, except as a specialty food, other than in Nepal and Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, barley cakes (“loaves”) are prepared by grinding barley and mixing it with oil and salt, perhaps in a manner similar to biblical days. Kurds in eastern Iraq make a barley bread by using about half barley meal and half durum flour. Without wheat flour, baking barley produces flat, crisp bread much different than wheaten bread because of the low amount of gluten in barley. [BiblePlants]
Production of beer, whether from wheat or barley, requires malt, which is prepared from germinated grain that is dried, usually ground, and placed in a mixture of cooked grains, along with yeast. The malt breaks down the carbohydrates in the grains, which the yeast can then convert to alcohol. A culture of yeast, similar to the leaven of the Bible, had to be maintained from one batch of beer to the next, perhaps as bits of the dried malt, which could be placed in the mixture of cooked grain and water. [BiblePlants]
Ancient beers contained considerable amounts of chaff from the barley, which had to be strained out of the brew either through filters or using straws. Numerous filters and straws are abundant in the archeological record(Homan,2004).This beer was prepared without hops (Humulus lupulus), which Europeans in the Middle Ages discovered as a preservative against bacterial decay. Instead, other materials were added to beer in the ancient Middle East as preservatives, which would have given the beer a different taste than the traditional lagers (beer made with hops) best known today. In addition to its uses for bread and beer, the barley plant was used like wheat for temper for bricks, for animal provender, and as straw. [BiblePlants]

Barley - Hordeum distichon

BARLEY (Hordeum sativum) An Irish charm for warts was to get ten knots of barley straw (though it was more usual to use ten slices of potato), count out nine and throw away the tenth. Rub the wart with the nine, then roll them up in a piece of paper, and throw them before a funeral. Then the wart would gradually disappear (Haddon). Large amounts of boiled barley juice were recommended in Scotland to be drunk for kidney disease, and Jewish folklore has a recipe for retention of urine, i.e. water in which barley, eggshells and parsley had been boiled (Rappoport).
In seventeenth century Skye a mixture of barley meal and white of egg was applied as a first aid measure for broken bones. After that splints were used (Beith). Martin gave an example of a cure used in Harris for drawing “worms” out of the flesh. It involved applying a “Plaister of warm Barley-dough to the place affected”. Eventually the swelling went down, and it drew out “a little Worm, about half an inch in length, and about the bigness of a Goose-quill, having a pointed head, and many little feet on each side”. They called this creature, whatever it was, a Fillan.[DPL Watts]

Allelochemicals: Either living or withered macrophytes releasing anti-algal compounds such as allelochemicals can be used for algal growth control. For example, Ridge & Pillinger (1996) showed that rotting barley (Hordeum vulgare) straw inhibited algal growth and found that autoclaving the straw prior to use enhanced its anti-algal activity.[Nakai]

BARLEY (Hordeum vulgare L.) +++ [HMH Duke]
Activities (Barley) — Abortifacient (f; BIB); Antilactagogue (f; BIB); Antipyretic (f; BIB); Demulcent (f; BIB; EFS); Digestive (f; BIB); Diuretic (f; BIB); Emollient (f; BIB; EFS); Expectorant (f; BIB); Stomachic (f; BIB).
Indications (Barley) — Acrochordon (f; BIB); Bladder (f; BIB); Bronchosis (f; BIB); Burn (f; BIB); Debility (f; DEP); Cancer (f; BIB); Catarrh (f; BIB; EFS); Chest (f; BIB); Chilblain (f; BIB); Cholera (f; BIB); Colitis (f; PH2); Cough (f; BIB); Debility (f; BIB); Diarrhea (f; BIB); Dyspepsia (f; BIB; SKJ); Enterosis (f; PH2); Fever (f; BIB); Fig (f; BIB); Gastrosis (f; PH2); IBD (f; PH2); Inflammation (f; BIB); Measles (f; BIB); Phthisis (f; BIB); Puerperium (f; BIB);Scirrhus (f; BIB); Sore (f; BIB); Tumor (f; BIB); Urogenitosis (f; BIB); Wart (f; BIB); Water Retention (f; BIB).
Dosages (Barley) — Food farmacy. 450 mg (PH2). J. I quote here a food farmacy recipe that I have seen only in the Bible, “Take thou unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof...And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes...” (Ezekiel 4:9, 12).
Contraindications, Interactions, and Side Effects (Barley) — Class 2b (AHP). “Hazards and/or side effects not known for proper therapeutic dosages” (PH2).


Page last modified on Friday, April 10, 2020 6:33 PM