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Barren Brome Grass

Anisantha sterilis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, Alpine Foxtail, Alpine Meadow-grass, Annual Beard-grass, Annual Meadow-grass, Arrow Bamboo, Bearded Couch Grass, Bearded Fescue, Bermuda Grass, Black Bent, Black Grass, Blue Fescue, Blue Moor-grass, Bog Hair-grass, Borrer's Saltmarsh Grass, Bread Wheat, Bristle Bent, Brown Bent, Brown Sedge, Bulbous Foxtail, Bulbous Meadow-grass, California Brome Grass, Canary Grass, Carnation Sedge, Cocksfoot, Cockspur, Common Bent, Common Cord-grass, Common Millet, Common Reed, Common Saltmarsh Grass, Compact Brome Grass, Corn, Couch Grass, Creeping Bent, Creeping Soft-grass, Crested Dog's-tail, Crested Hair-grass, Cultivated Oat, Curved Hard Grass, Cut Grass, Dense Silky Bent, Downy Oat-grass, Drooping Brome Grass, Drooping Tor Grass, Dune Fescue, Early Hair-grass, Early Meadow-grass, Early Sand-grass, False Brome Grass, False Oat-grass, Fern Grass, Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue, Flattened Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Foxtail Barley, French Oat, Giant Fescue, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Great Brome Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Grey Hair-grass, Hairy Brome Grass, Hairy Finger-grass, Hard Fescue, Hard Grass, Harestail Grass, Heath Grass, Holy Grass, Hybrid Marram Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Knotroot Bristlegrass, Lesser Hairy Brome Grass, Lesser Quaking Grass, Loose Silky Bent, Lyme Grass, Marram Grass, Marsh Foxtail, Mat Grass, Mat-grass Fescue, Meadow Barley, Meadow Fescue, Meadow Foxtail, Meadow Oat-grass, Mountain Melick, Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass, Narrow-leaved Small-reed, Neglected Couch Grass, Nit Grass, Orange Foxtail, Pampas Grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Plicate Sweet-grass, Purple Moor-grass, Purple Small-reed, Purple-stem Catstail, Quaking Grass, Ratstail Fescue, Red Fescue, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet-grass, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass, Rescue Grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Rush-leaved Fescue, Sand Catstail, Sand Couch Grass, Scandinavian Small-reed, Scottish Small-reed, Sea Barley, Sea Couch Grass, Sea Fern Grass, Sheep's Fescue, Silver Hair-grass, Six-rowed Barley, Slender Brome Grass, Small Cord-grass, Small Sweet-grass, Smaller Catstail, Smooth Brome Grass, Smooth Cord-grass, Smooth Finger-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Soft Brome Grass, Somerset Hair-grass, Sorghum, Spreading Meadow-grass, Squirreltail Fescue, Stiff Brome Grass, Stiff Saltmarsh Grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy Grass, Tor Grass, Tufted Hair-grass, Two-rowed Barley, Upright Brome Grass, Velvet Bent, Viviparous Fescue, Wall Barley, Wavy Hair-grass, Wavy Meadow-grass, Whorl Grass, Wild Oat, Wood Barley, Wood Fescue, Wood Meadow-grass, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Yellow Oat-grass, Yorkshire Fog
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, meadows, roadsides, wasteland.

Green, no petals
Nodding clusters of flowers. Spikelets are long awned, usually one awn per branch. Awns measure between 25 and 35mm.
The mature flower encases the fruit which bears the seeds. The seeds are pale brown, narrowly elliptical and measure 1cm long and 1mm wide.
2 to 6mm wide leaf blades, up to 25cm long. Softly hairy. Annual or biennial. Very common throughout the British Isles but rare in the far north and west of Scotland. Regarded as a weed on farmland.
Other Names:
Haver-grass, Poverty Brome, Sterile Barley, Sterile Brome.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Anisantha sterilis, commonly known as the sterile barley or sterile brome, is a species of grass in the Poaceae family. It is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. The plant is a annual or biennial with simple or branched stems that grow up to 150 cm tall. The leaves are flat and are typically 2-5mm wide and 15-30cm long. The stems terminate in a short inflorescence which is a spike-like cluster of flowers. They bloom during late spring or early summer. Anisantha sterilis is able to grow in a variety of soil types, and is found in a wide range of habitats such as meadows, fields, and along roadsides. It can be a weed problem in cereal crops and may affect their growth.


Barren Brome Grass, scientifically known as Anisantha sterilis, is an annual grass species that belongs to the Poaceae family. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is widely distributed throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Barren Brome Grass is commonly found in fields, meadows, roadsides, and disturbed areas.

Barren Brome Grass is known for its aggressive growth and competitive ability, which enables it to outcompete other plant species in its habitat. It has an extensive root system that allows it to access deep soil moisture, which is a major advantage in arid and semi-arid regions. The grass can grow up to 1.5 meters tall and has a distinctive erect and branched stem. The leaves are flat and narrow, with a rough texture, and can reach up to 30 cm in length.

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Barren Brome Grass is its seed head. The seed head is a large and compact panicle, which can measure up to 30 cm in length. The seeds are oblong and have a distinctive twisted shape, which helps them disperse in the wind.

Barren Brome Grass is considered a problematic weed in many parts of the world due to its invasive nature and ability to outcompete other plant species. It is particularly harmful to agricultural land as it reduces crop yields and can make harvesting difficult. Additionally, the grass can cause allergies in some individuals due to its high pollen production.

Despite its negative impact on agriculture, Barren Brome Grass has some beneficial uses. It is an excellent forage grass and is often used as a hay crop in regions where water is scarce. The grass is also used in erosion control as its extensive root system helps stabilize soil on hillsides and other vulnerable areas.

Control measures for Barren Brome Grass include physical, chemical, and biological methods. Physical methods include hand-pulling and cultivation, while chemical methods involve the use of herbicides. Biological methods include the use of natural predators and parasites that feed on the grass. However, the most effective control measure is prevention, which involves preventing the spread of the grass by controlling its seed production and spread.

Barren Brome Grass is an invasive grass species that has both negative and positive impacts on the environment. While it can be beneficial in some situations, it is important to control its spread to prevent it from outcompeting other plant species and causing harm to agricultural land. By implementing effective control measures and preventing its spread, we can mitigate the negative impacts of Barren Brome Grass and protect our natural ecosystems.

Barren Brome Grass is a versatile plant that can thrive in a wide range of environmental conditions. It is adapted to tolerate drought, heat, and low soil fertility, making it a resilient plant that can survive in harsh environments. However, these adaptations also make it a difficult weed to control as it can rapidly spread in areas where other plants cannot survive.

In addition to its invasive nature, Barren Brome Grass has also been found to have allelopathic effects on other plants. Allelopathy is the ability of one plant species to produce chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plant species. This can have significant impacts on plant diversity and ecosystem health, as it can reduce the number of plant species in an area.

Despite its negative impacts, Barren Brome Grass has been used for various purposes throughout history. In ancient times, the grass was used for medicinal purposes as it was believed to have healing properties for skin diseases, wounds, and gastrointestinal problems. It was also used as a food source for livestock and as a thatching material for roofs.

In modern times, Barren Brome Grass has been studied for its potential as a biofuel crop. Researchers have found that the grass has a high biomass yield and can be used as a source of renewable energy. However, further research is needed to determine the economic feasibility of using Barren Brome Grass as a biofuel crop.

Barren Brome Grass can also have significant impacts on soil health. Its extensive root system can deplete soil moisture and nutrients, making it difficult for other plant species to grow in the same area. Additionally, the grass can alter the soil microbial community, which can have negative effects on soil fertility and nutrient cycling.

One of the challenges in controlling Barren Brome Grass is its ability to adapt to different control measures. For example, the grass can quickly develop resistance to herbicides, which can render chemical control methods ineffective over time. Therefore, it is important to implement integrated weed management strategies that combine different control measures and target different stages of the plant's life cycle.

Furthermore, the spread of Barren Brome Grass can also have significant economic impacts. In addition to reducing crop yields and making harvesting difficult, the grass can also increase production costs by requiring additional resources for control measures. For example, farmers may need to invest in more herbicides or labor to manually control the grass, which can increase their overall costs and reduce their profits.

Finally, the spread of Barren Brome Grass can also have ecological impacts on native plant and animal species. As the grass outcompetes other plant species, it can reduce habitat availability and alter the composition of local ecosystems. This can have negative impacts on wildlife that rely on specific plant species for food and shelter.

In conclusion, Barren Brome Grass is a challenging plant species that has both negative and positive impacts on the environment. While it has been used for various purposes throughout history, its invasive nature and allelopathic effects make it a difficult weed to control. By continuing to study the plant's properties and impacts, we can better understand its role in our ecosystems and develop effective control measures to mitigate its negative effects and protect our natural ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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