An annual grass with each stem bearing an unbranched, erect, flattened, bristly spike of narrow, crowded, greenish-brown spikelet.
This starchy seed is widespread at sites in the Midwest and Southeast and is part of the indigenous complex of pre-maize domesticates. Little barley is also seen in archaeobotanical samples from the Greater Southwest. There are seven native Hordeum species in North America, but the focus of this description is the cultivated H. pusillum.
Little barley does grow in relatively dense stands without cultivation and could have been harvested as a wild food source rather than a cultivated crop. However, as noted above, following European settlement, little barley has become more abundant, and modern stands may show little resemblance to prehistoric wild stands. Whether cultivated or not, little barley would have provided a nutritious food source during a time of year when other plant foods are scarce. The other small-seeded crops (excluding may grass) and the nuts utilized by prehistoric people are all available in the fall, while may grass and little barley provide spring plant food sources.
Scientific Name: Hordeum pusillum
- Availability: In Stock