Herb: Foxtail Barley

Latin name: Hordeum jubatum

Family: Gramineae (Grass Family)

Medicinal use of Foxtail Barley:

The dry root can be wrapped, then moistened and used as a compress for styes in the eyes or on swollen eyelids.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)


Habitat of the herb:

Grassy bushy places below 2500 metres in California.

Edible parts of Foxtail Barley:

Seed - raw or cooked. The seed can be ground into a flour and used as a cereal in making bread, porridge etc. Native North Americans would eat the dry flour raw. The seed is exceedingly small and fiddly to use. The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow in situ in March or October and only just cover the seed. Make sure the soil surface does not dry out if the weather is dry. Germination takes place within 2 weeks. Division in spring. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Cultivation of Foxtail Barley:

Grassy bushy places below 2500 metres in California.

Known hazards of Hordeum jubatum:

The barbed awns around the seeds can work their way into the gums and digestive tract of animals when the seed is eaten, causing irritation and inflammation. They can also work their way into the ears and eyes, sometimes causing blindness and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.