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Foxtail Barley

Hordeum jubatum

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, Barren Brome Grass, 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, 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:
Annual or Perennial
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Grassland, roadsides, wasteland.

Green, no petals
Purple to pale green in colour. Nodding panicles of long-awned spikelets. 3 anthers. Wind pollinated.
A caryopsis.
An annual or perennial grass with slender greyish-green leaf blades.
Other Names:
Bobtail Barley, Intermediate Barley, Mouse Barley, Squirrel Tail Grass, Squirreltail Barley.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Hordeum jubatum, also known as foxtail barley or squirreltail barley, is a species of grass that is native to North America. It is a common weed that is found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, meadows, fields, and along roadsides. Hordeum jubatum is a hardy plant that can grow in a wide range of soils and climates. It has thin, upright stalks that can reach heights of up to 1 meter (3 feet) and has long, narrow leaves that are a bright green color. The plant produces small, inconspicuous flowers that are followed by small, hard seeds that are contained in a hull. The seeds are characterized by a distinctive, fluffy appearance that gives the plant its common name, foxtail barley. Hordeum jubatum is considered a weed in many areas because it can outcompete native plants for resources and can alter the structure and function of natural ecosystems.


Foxtail barley, also known as Hordeum jubatum, is a species of wild barley that is widely distributed in North America. This plant is considered to be a weed due to its ability to grow quickly and invade natural habitats, but it is also sometimes used for ornamental purposes.

Foxtail barley is a hardy plant that can grow in a wide range of soils and climatic conditions. It is a perennial plant that can grow up to 2 feet tall and has narrow, green leaves that are covered with short, stiff hairs. The plant produces spikes of flowers that resemble fox tails, hence the name foxtail barley. The spikes are elongated and up to 6 inches long, and are composed of small, yellowish-green flowers.

One of the key characteristics of foxtail barley is its ability to grow quickly and outcompete other plants. This is due to its ability to quickly colonize new areas, as well as its ability to adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions. As a result, foxtail barley is often considered to be a weed, as it can quickly spread and overtake other vegetation.

Despite its reputation as a weed, foxtail barley has some uses in horticulture and landscaping. For example, it is sometimes used as an ornamental plant due to its attractive appearance, and it can also be used as a ground cover to prevent soil erosion.

In terms of management, foxtail barley can be controlled through physical removal, as well as through the use of herbicides. It is important to control the growth of this plant, as it can have a significant impact on the health of other plants and animals in the area.

Foxtail barley is also known to be allelopathic, meaning that it produces chemicals that can inhibit the growth of other plants. This can lead to reduced biodiversity in areas where foxtail barley is prevalent.

Additionally, foxtail barley is a host for a number of insects and diseases, including the barley yellow dwarf virus, which can impact crop yields for barley and other cereal crops. For this reason, it is important to manage foxtail barley in agricultural areas to prevent the spread of pests and diseases.

In traditional Native American medicine, foxtail barley was used for a variety of purposes, including as a remedy for digestive problems and as a pain reliever. The plant is still used in some traditional medicine practices today.

In terms of wildlife, foxtail barley is an important source of food for a number of birds and small mammals, including pronghorns, bighorn sheep, and birds of prey. However, its aggressive growth habits can also lead to a reduction in native plant species and negatively impact wildlife populations.

Another aspect of foxtail barley to consider is its impact on livestock. Foxtail barley seeds can be easily ingested by livestock and can cause digestive problems, including blockages in the gut and mouth. This can result in weight loss, reduced productivity, and in severe cases, death.

To prevent the spread of foxtail barley and minimize its impact on livestock, it is recommended to avoid grazing animals in areas with high densities of the plant. In addition, regularly monitoring pastures and removing foxtail barley by hand or using herbicides can help prevent its spread and minimize its impact on livestock.

Foxtail barley is also known to be invasive in some areas outside of North America, where it can have significant negative impacts on native plant species and ecosystems. It is important to be aware of the potential impact of foxtail barley in these areas and take steps to prevent its spread and manage its growth.

In summary, foxtail barley is a complex plant that has a wide range of impacts on the environment, including agriculture, wildlife, and human health. Proper management and control of foxtail barley is important to minimize its negative impacts and ensure healthy and sustainable ecosystems. This can be achieved through a combination of physical removal, herbicide use, and monitoring to prevent its spread and minimize its impact.