Canada

Wild barley (spontaneous barley)

Hordeum spontaneum

Wild barley is an annual grass and is very similar in form to cultivated barley (Hordeum vulgare) but has slightly narrower leaves, longer stems, longer awns, a brittle rachis, a longer, more slender seed spike and smaller grains. Characteristics of the wild plant that enhance its survival and dispersal include the brittle rachis (the central part of the seed head), which breaks when the grain is ripe, and the hulled seeds, which are arranged in two rows. In cultivated varieties the rachis is more durable and the seeds are usually arranged in four or six rows. In the east, barley is usually grown for human consumption and the naked form of the grain is preferred, while in the west, the hulled form is mainly grown. It is used for animal feed and for the production of malt for brewing.