Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Hordeum jubatum - Foxtail Barley

Foxtail Barley at the Giggleswick (northern)
 turn-off on the Settle Bypass
Foxtail barley is still growing at the north end of Settle bypass, waving its white feather heads in the road edge  in the slipstream wind generated by passing lorries.

"Look at the Foxtail Barley!" shout observant botanists as they drive past..

But how many of you have stopped to pick a shoot and run it gently against your neck?

z Z  z  Z z .....
It is so ticklish
Most of these pictures on this post were taken 25 Sept 2007 at the  the northern junction of the Settle bypass.  It was still growing there last night (26 Sept 2011), when I took the closeup photo of the leaf at the bottom of this post. The photo of it on the traffic island is from 2007 - It is not on the Island this year.   
Foxtail Barley on the traffic island
They tend to cut the verge in late July and then it flowers in August-September.  
The BSBI atlas shows it is an introduced plant. I look for it at road junctions and roundabouts on motorways.  I once found one plant at Helwith Bridge Quarry- must have got carried there on a lorry wheel.
It used to grow on the A9 near Pitlochry, but I have not seen it recently - though I haven't been there in late summer.

Sweep an inflorescence against your cheek. It is s-s-so ticklish. - or put in a vase to provide enjoyment for months ahead.

And here's a video of the very day I took the photos in 2007 - was it really four years ago?
 If you watch the video you'll get a feel for the habitat - near busy roads .. and look out for the Bibby's bus - heading west to Ingleton or off to the Lakes?

What makes a barely a barley?

Barley's have three spikelets which grow together on one side of the stem at a node,

Barley's have three spikelets which grow together on one side of the stem at a node, then three spikelets on the other side of the stem.

If this "mini-branch" is pulled off from a node there are nine long bristles or awns - this is because each spikelet has three awns, and the central spikelet is usually larger than the two side ones.

In each spikelet the upper and lower glumes are the same length and have very long awns, and the lemma has a very long awn.. So each spikelet has three long awns .  In Hordeum jubatum only the middle spikelet has a fertile floret with a very long lemma awn. The two spikelets have much smaller lemmas with short awns.

Close up of the above

There are tiny barbs on the side of the awns.
The unit which falls of the grass can stick in an animals fur - which helps dispersal - but apparently can also get into the skin of pets, and the wound can get infected. These units can be called  foxtails

The blade is 2.5 mm wide, and a pastel version of green. It has a short ligule. It has very closely packed ribs. It is softly, shortly hairy
Hordeum jubatum leaf- but this was the flag leaf so perhaps the ligule is longer .
We've often had Traffic problems recording Hordeum jubatum
here beside the A9- August 1991 -
Grasses Course at Kindrogan Field Centre

(See other month's grasses)

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