Barley isn’t just any grass—it has become the fourth most important cereal crop
worldwide, after wheat, corn, and rice. It has served as a staple food, beer, and liquor source in many cultures, dating
back as far as 10,000 years. Barley traces its name to the Old English name bere, which traces further
back to the Latin farina, or “flour.” “Barn” originally meant “barley house.”
Barley is native to Eurasia and northeast Africa. In North America, it is found in the wild when it escapes
cultivation, but it doesn’t persist for very long. It appears in disturbed habitats. It is an annual.
Flowers: There is a small floret on each spikelet.
Fruits: Spikes are comprised of sessile, densely packed
spikelets, like tiny ears of corn. “Two-row” barley has a center fertile spikelet surrounded by
sterile lateral spikelets. “Six-row” barley has clusters of three sessile, fertile spikelets.
Long nearly parallel upward-pointing narrow awns distinguish barley from other grasses.
Awns are up to 6" (16 cm) long.
Edibility: An important food crop for livestock and