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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Hare barley  (Hordeum murinum ssp. leporinum)

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Life stages of Hare barley left picture top right picture bottom right picture

Hare barley, frequently called wild barley, is a winter annual grass. It is found throughout California up to 3300 feet (1000 m) and inhabits agricultural land, disturbed sites, and unmanaged natural areas. It is a useful livestock forage early in the season before the flower spikes develop. However, at maturity the spikelets have stiff, barbed, needle-like awns, and sharp bases that can injure the mouth, eyes, nasal passages, ears, and skin of animals.


Annual grasslands, oak savannah, open hillsides, agronomic crop fields, orchards, vineyards, landscaped areas, turf, managed forests, roadsides, unmanaged, disturbed sites, and moist sites.


Seedlings have hairy leaf blades like wild oat, but the empty seed coat falls off (the seed coat is held on the seedling in wild oat).


Ligules are papery. Unlike foxtail barley and wild oat, hare barley has well developed auricles. They are characteristically long, narrow, and clasp the stem.

Mature plant

The mature plant can reach over 3 feet (about 1 m) tall. Stems are round in cross-section, grow erect to somewhat spreading, and often bend abruptly at the base. Leaves are flat, rolled in the bud, are generally covered with short hairs, and often reach about 8 inches (20 cm) long.


Flowers bloom from April through June. The flower head is a bristly, dense spike that is 1 to 3 inches (3–8 cm) long. At maturity, it breaks into several pieces.

Related or similar plants

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