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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

03 December, 2016

Meadow Barley: Sir John Barleycorn

It is easy to forget that our vital cereal crops have been developed from wild grasses. When you look at meadow barley (Hordeum secalinum) it quickly reminds you of the fact, it has the characteristics of the cultivated versions in our farm fields.
It is difficult to describe the flower of the barley and I probably do not need too as most of us will be familiar with it. Barley have lots of long hairs or bristles that protrude from the central seed cases. That is very crude really, I should be mentioning glumes, awns and lemmas! However, as I do not really know what they are and I am pretty sure that unless you are grass enthusiast you would not know what I was talking about I will stick with hairs, bristles and seeds!
There are few barley species likely to be found in Dorset, the common one being wall barley and the meadow barley is very different being taller and more erect and growing in old meadows rather than on waste ground and roadsides and so it is a readily identifiable species if you encounter it. It is supposedly common but there are few old meadows still around so iy will nly be common in suitable habitat.
Meadow Barley: Sir John Barleycorn