Little Barley


One of many weedy spring annuals

Little Barley (Hordeum pusillum) is a native species in Illinois and looks similar to cultivated barley (Hordeum vulgare). Because it likes to grow in disturbed areas it is not typically a desired grass. It is a spring annual, so by May is well into its flowering season.

Identification features

Little Barley is a bunchgrass that stays around or under a foot tall.

  • Compared to other grasses of its height, it has much broader leaves. The leaves themselves are rather short, less than about 2 inches long, and stay broad almost to the tip, where they become pointed.
  • It has a very short membranous ligule that can be difficult to see.
  • When it flowers, Little Barley produces a spike inflorescence, with numerous awned spikelets densely arranged together. It resembles a barley seed head, but is smaller and has shorter awns.