Foxtail Barley - Hordeum jubatum

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

Habitat / Range

Moist to dry, often alkaline, lakeshores, meadows, roadsides and waste places in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; frequent in S BC, infrequent northward; circumpolar, N to AK, YT, and NT, E to NF and S to SC, TN, AR, TX, NM, AZ, MX and CA; Eurasia, S America. [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]


Hordeum jubatum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft). It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower in June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. [PFAF]


General: Perennial, tufted grass from fibrous roots, smooth to densely soft-hairy; stems 20-50 (60) cm tall. [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: Sheaths open; blades 2-4 (5) mm wide, sparsely hairy just above the ligules; ear-shaped lobes usually present on at least some leaf-bases, barely 0.5 mm long; ligules 0.2-0.6 mm long, blunt, more or less entire. [IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers: Inflorescence a spike, 5-10 cm long (including awns) and almost as wide at maturity, the rachis disarticulating; central spikelets unstalked, the lateral ones short-stalked, the stalks curved, stiff-hairy, about 1-1.5 mm long; central spikelet glumes awnlike, (11) 20-90 mm long, the awns of the lateral spikelet glumes often as long as those of the central spikelets; central spikelet lemmas with awns nearly as long as the glumes, ultimately usually more or less broadly spreading, the lateral spikelet florets sterile, rudimentary to nearly as large as those of the central spikelets, then with functional anthers; anthers 1-1.5 mm long. [IFBC-E-flora]
Hordeum jubatum hybridizes with several species in other genera of the Triticeae as well as with H. brachyantherum. These latter hybrids, which tend to resemble H. jubatum more than H. brachyantherum, are called H. jubatum ssp. intermedium (Barkworth 1994). The two subspecies occurring in BC may be recognized as follows:
1. Glumes 33-90 mm long; lemma awns of the central florets 33-90 mm long......................... ssp. Jubatum
1. Glumes 11-36 mm long; lemma awns of the central florets 7-36 mm long......................ssp. intermedium Bowden [IFBC-E-flora]


The barbed awns around the seeds can work their way into the gums and digestive tract of animals when the seed is eaten, causing irritation and inflammation[212]. They can also work their way into the ears and eyes, sometimes causing blindness and even death[212]. [PFAF].

Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses


Prefers a rather dry soil[1] and a sunny position[200]. Succeeds in most soils and in climates ranging from sub-arctic to sub-tropical[171]. Easily grown in light soils[162]. Established plants are drought resistant[190]. A very short-lived plant, it is often only an annual[162], though it often self sows a little[190].[PFAF]

Seed - sow in situ in March or October and only just cover the seed. Make sure the soil surface does not dry out if the weather is dry. Germination takes place within 2 weeks. Division in spring. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.[PFAF]

Hordeum caespitosum Scribn. ex Pammel
Hordeum jubatum var. caespitosum (Scribn. ex Pammel) Hitchc.[E-flora]