Ontario Weeds: Foxtail barley
Table of Contents
Name: Foxtail barley, Hordeum jubatum
Flowers & Fruit: Inflorescence (seed head) a dense, unbranched, barley-like spike, 5-12cm (2-5in.) long, with finely barbed, long, green or purplish awns, erect or nodding slightly to one side; turning yellowish or straw-coloured when mature and breaking apart into separate seed-bearing units; each unit having a very sharp point and 7 long, spreading awns. These may be blown by the wind or carried in animal fur, clothing, etc. Flowers from June to October.
Habitat: Foxtail barley is a native grass throughout Canada, chiefly in moist or saline depressions, but it also occurs in cultivated fields, roadsides, waste areas and lawns.
Similar Species: Before heading out, it is distinguished by its bluish to grayish-green colour, its split sheath and its short ligule and by the presence of a very short auricle on some plants. After heading out, the dense 1-sided "foxtail" inflorescence with its long, green or purplish awns is unmistakable.
Caution: When animals walk through or graze in areas containing mature Foxtail barley or eat hay contaminated with the ripe heads of this weed, the sharp-pointed, bristly segments may get into their hair, mouth, nose or eyes. Because these bristles have tiny, forward-pointing barbs, they will only slide in one direction. Motion of the animal's body forces these sharp-pointed segments deeper into the skin causing skin sores, irritation of back of mouth and nasal passages, and sometimes blindness.
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