Hordeum vulgare L.

common barley

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Common barley hails originally from western Asia and north Africa. It is the main grain ingredient in a number of liquors, including beer. It is one of the first documented agricultural cereals, dating from the Neolithic period (8500 years ago) in the fertile crescent of the Nile delta. Today, it escapes from cultivation into roadsides, fields and areas with disturbed soils. Two cultivars can be found: "six-row barley", with clusters of three sessile, fertile spikelets, and "two-row barley", with only the center spikelet fertile, the lateral ones sterile. This species is unmistakeable for its spikelets arrayed in a herringbone pattern, with very long awns that give the inflorescence a gracefully spiky appearance.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Inflorescence branches
  • the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
  • there are no branch points between the base of the inflorescence axis and the flowers, or they are not obvious
Glume relative length
neither glume is quite as long as all of the florets
One or more florets
there is one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
0–160 mm
Leaf sheath hair type
  • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath, but the hairs do not have blisters at their bases
  • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
Leaf ligule length
Up to 2.5 mm
Anther length
2–2.5 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    2–2.5 mm
    Anther number
    0–3
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    Floret number
    1
    Floret types within spikelet
    • all the florets within a spikelet are similar
    • there are at least two distinct forms of florets within one spikelet
    Glume awn length
    2–30 mm
    Glume keel
    NA
    Glume relative length
    neither glume is quite as long as all of the florets
    Glume shape
    • the glume is V-shaped in cross-section
    • the glume is flat or curved in cross-section
    Glume veins
    3
    Glumes per spikelet
    2
    Inflorescence axis orientation
    • the inflorescence axis is arched or curved outward
    • the inflorescence axis is straight
    Inflorescence branch length
    0–3 cm
    Inflorescence branches
    • the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
    • there are no branch points between the base of the inflorescence axis and the flowers, or they are not obvious
    Inflorescence branches coming off the lowest stem node
    0–2
    Inflorescence crowding
    NA
    Inflorescence length
    50–100 mm
    Inflorescence length to width ratio
    5–6.3
    Inflorescence type (general)
    the inflorescence is a spike, or is spike-like, lacking obvious branches
    Inflorescence type (specific)
    • the inflorescence has pairs (or trios) of spikelets, but with one always either missing a stalk or on a shorter stalk than the other
    • the inflorescence is a spike (a long unbranched stem with flowers along it that lack stalks)
    Inflorescence width
    8–20 mm
    Inforescence position
    the spikelets are mainly carried at the end of the stem
    Lemma awn base
    the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn coiled
    • NA
    • the lemma awn is straight or twisted, but not coiled one half turn
    Lemma awn length
    0–160 mm
    Lemma awn number
    • the lemma has no awn
    • the lemma has one awn on it
    Lemma awn orientation
    • the awn of the lemma is straight
    • the awn of the lemma on dried or older plants is curved or bent outwards
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is flat or rounded if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma hairs
    the lemma is hairless between the veins
    Lemma keel hairs
    NA
    Lemma marginal vein hairs
    the marginal vein of the lemma is hairless
    Lemma surface
    the surface of the lemma is relatively smooth (not counting any longitudinal veins or hairs)
    Lemma tip
    • the lemma tip is a simple point, with or without an awn (long narrow extension ending in a point)
    • the lemma tip is split into two or more points
    Lemma tip shape
    the lemma tip tapers to a long narrow point (it may or may not also have an awn or teeth at the tip)
    Lemma vein number
    5
    Lemma vein orientation
    the veins on the lemma stay roughly parallel throughout
    Lower glume relative length
    the lower glume is nearly as long, or as long as, the upper glume
    One or more florets
    there is one floret per spikelet
    Palea length
    9–11 mm
    Palea relative length
    palea is one half to fully as long as lemma
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers on the plant have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    Spikelet axis tip
    there is an extension of the spikelet axis beyond the tip of the spikelet
    Spikelet disintegration
    the spikelet breaks off below the glumes
    Spikelet number per node
    Up to 3
    Spikelet pedicel
    • the spikelets do not have pedicels
    • the spikelets have pedicels
    Spikelet pedicel length
    0–3 mm
    Spikelet position
    • NA
    • the spikelets emerge mainly from the upper halves of the inflorescence branches
    Spikelet shape
    the spikelets are another shape in profile
    Spikelets per panicle branch
    0
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
    Tip of glume
    the tip of the glume is not divided (though it may have an awn on it)
    Upper glume relative length
    the upper glume is up to one half as long as the lowest lemma
    Upper glume shape
    the upper glume is widest at or below the middle
  • Fruits or seeds
    Groove on seed
    the caryopsis has a groove running most of its length
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives only a single year or less
  • Leaves
    Leaf auricles
    the leaves have auricles
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section, or slightly folded or rolled inwards
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade is hairless, but it may have tiny prickles that give it a sand-papery feel
    Leaf blade length
    Up to 30 cm
    Leaf blade texture
    • the leaf blade is rough and sandpapery
    • the leaf blade is smooth, or it may have soft hairs
    Leaf ligule length
    Up to 2.5 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    the leaf ligule is in the form of a membrane
    Leaf margin glands
    there are no glands along the edges of the leaf blade
    Leaf sheath closed around stem
    the margins of the leaf sheath are overlapping and not fused together except in the basal half (or less)
    Leaf sheath hair type
    • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath, but the hairs do not have blisters at their bases
    • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath hairs
    • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Orientation of topmost leaf
    the flag leaf is held upright, or at less than a 45 degree angle out from the stem
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Hairs at nodes
    the stem nodes are hairless or they have very sparse hairs
    Plant height
    50–150 cm
    Stem hairs
    the stem is nearly to completely hairless
    Stem orientation
    • the stems are upright
    • the stems trail at the base, but turn upwards at the tips
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow close together in compact clusters or tufts

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
not applicable (S-rank: SNA)

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Secale cereale:
spikelets solitary at each node of the inflorescence and auricles short, 0.5-1 mm long (vs. H. vulgare, with spikelets numbering 2-4 at each node of the inflorescence and auricles longer, up to 6 mm long).
Triticum aestivum:
spikelets solitary at each node of the inflorescence, with 3-9 florets(vs. H. vulgare, with spikelets numbering usually 3 at each node of the inflorescence, with 1 floret).

Synonyms

  • Hordeum distichon L.
  • Hordeum hexastichon L.
  • Hordeum vulgare L. var. trifurcatum (Schlecht.) Alef.

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Hordeum

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

5.  Hordeum vulgare L. E

common barley. Hordeum distichon L.; H. hexastichon L.; H. vulgare L. var. trifurcatum (Schlecht.) Alef. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Roadsides, fields, disturbed soil. Two forms of this cultivated grass can be found—those with all 3 spikelets of a triad sessile and fertile, 
called 6-row barley, and those with only the central spikelet of a triad fertile, the lateral spikelets sterile and pedicelled, called 2-row barley.