Hare barley, also known as winter barley or wild barley, or by its Latin name, Hordeum murinum spp. Leporinum is a seasonal cool-weather weedy grass that is prevalent in western states. The weed is frequently found in freshly seeded lawns and turf and can be extremely difficult to manage without the assistance of professional lawn treatment services. Although hare barley is similar to cultivated barley that is traditionally used for cereal and brewing, it is not intended for livestock feed or for consumption and can be extremely invasive in lawns and landscaping.
Hare barley is a cool-season annual grass that can potentially grow to over 3 feet tall, although 1-2 feet tall is more typical. It has well-developed auricles that adhere to the stem and has narrow, flat leaves. The leaves of hare barely typically range in size from 1/2 centimeter to 3/4 centimeter in width and are usually hairy in appearance. Hare barley produces a 1-3 inch bristly spike from April through June, with the spike breaking apart at the nodes at maturity.
Environment and Germination
Hare barley is most commonly found in areas with warm summers and cool, wet winters. The grassy weed is often found in pastures, disturbed earth, new growth, roadsides, agronomic crops, and other areas where the seeds can take root. Seeds typically drop close to parent plants, though sometimes they are transferred via clothing, animal fur, or wind and germinate that same fall.
Impact of Hare Barley
This grassy weed has been considered moderately invasive. While immature hare barley is often a good feed option for grazing livestock in pastures, once the seed heads mature they present dangers to livestock.
The ability for hare barley to grow as tall as three feet also make it destructive to agronomic crops (particularly low-lying crops such as alfalfa and small grains) because it takes up valuable moisture and reduces crop yields.
Treating for Hare Barley
A homeowner can apply weed killer themselves to small breakouts, or they can hire a lawn service that focuses on weed control. Small infestations are typically best removed by manually digging or mowing, although both methods usually result in reemergence of plants (though in fewer quantities). Heavy grazing prior to maturity has shown to be an effective method in reducing the quantities of hare barley in fields.