Plant Guide > Grasses > Squirrel Tail Grass

Squirrel Tail Grass

Squirrel Tail GrassHordeum jubatum L.

The Squirrel-tail Grass, a most unworthy relative of so useful a grain, has reversed the usual order of migrating plants and for a number of years has been travelling eastward from the Middle States and the West.

It spreads its bristly flowering-heads in waste grounds and invades dooryards and gardens, a weed wherever it appears, and furnished with that facility in transporting itself which the majority of weeds possess.

Those virtues which the optimistic philosopher is so sure exist in every plant, are as yet undiscovered in this grass, and beautiful as the plant is in bloom, with its squirrel-tails of bearded spikes, its cultivation for ornament is soon abandoned.

It is a slender grass, blooming in early summer, and recognized by the many long awns which spread stiffly from the pike.

These shining awns, often tinged with rose and lavender, are of great beauty and glisten with metallic lustre.

According to a report of the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club these awns perform a quite different office from such awns as those of Sweet Vernal-grass and other grasses.

The awns of Squirrel-tail Grass show a backward curving which, wedgelike, raises each spikelet from those below and soon separates the ripened spike, joint from joint.

The awns also, like those of certain other grasses, cling to passers-by and thus secure free transportation for the seeds.

Squirrel-tail Grass. Hordeum jubatum L.


Stein 9'-30' tall, slender, erect. Sheaths smooth. Ligule very short. Leaves 1'-6' long, 1"-2" wide, flat, rough on margins.

Spike 2'-5' long, cylindrical, densely flowered. Spikelets 1-flowered, usually in 3's, flower of middle spikelet perfect, lateral spikelets imperfect. Rachala prolonged. Outer scales awn-like, spreading, 1'-2 1/2' long; flowering scale of perfect flower terminating in a slender, rough, spreading awn 1'-2' long, lateral spikelets short-awned; palets nearly as long as flowering scales. Stamens 3.

Cultivated lands and waste places, also in saline soils. June to August.

Labrador to Alaska, south to New Jersey, Colorado, and California.