Hordeum jubatum

Foxtail or squirreltail barley is featured once again on BPotD, though from a different perspective (previous entries: Hordeum jubatum seed, Rumex crispus and Hordeum jubatum, and close-ups of Hordeum jubatum).

Heavy spring rains in the high desert of south-central Oregon likely contributed to an excellent year for Hordeum jubatum. The saltscrub flats where this species is the dominant vegetation would have been inundated with water, forming ephemeral alkali lakes. By the time I visited the area in early July, most of these lakes had evaporated, leaving behind robust numbers of foxtail barley — one of the few plants that can tolerate these alkaline desert environments. I suppose it could be called a facultative halophyte — a species that tolerates (or thrives) in alkaline environments, but can be found growing in other soil environments. The ability of Hordeum jubatum to withstand extreme conditions, though, contributes to it having a widespread distribution in North America and northeast Asia (and, naturalize elsewhere in the world).

There are many other links to peruse from previous entries on this species, so I’ll instead make a few miscellaneous natural history comments about Lake County, Oregon, where these photographs were made. Firstly, Lake County was the site of discovery (in 1938) of the world’s oldest shoes (at the time). Found in Fort Rock cave, these sagebrush-bark sandals helped push back the date of first-known human inhabitation of western North America by several thousand years to ~9500-10500 years before-present. Subsequent discoveries of other evidence suggest much older dates of human settlement in North America.

Another tidbit is that Lake County and adjacent Harney County contain the only known sites of Oregon sunstone (images). During my return trip to the area planned for next year, I intend to go gem-hunting.

Hordeum jubatum
Hordeum jubatum

11 responses to “Hordeum jubatum”

  1. Barb Mullinix

    I suppose this is what it would look like if we ever began to terraform Mars.

  2. annie morgan

    The lower photo is quite marvellous.

  3. Daniel Mosquin

    Actually, Barb, for an otherworldly look at Earth, use the Google Maps link above the photographs and scroll a bit to the left and up…

  4. Sue Vargas

    Made me think of Africa….

  5. Annie

    Daniel, Thanks for returning with such fun images and info. I love your posts, and seeing these hardy grasses here is a treat!

  6. elizabeth a airhart

    i went up to 220 then zoomed in
    and looked with amazement at the plants
    where were you standing when you took
    the pictures rather high up it would seem
    thank you for for all the links

  7. Lynne

    Interesting! This stuff grows wild all over our neighborhood here in central New Mexico. I have a difficult time keeping it from taking over our yard. “Alkaline desert environment” pretty accurately describes the growing conditions here.

  8. Krystyna Szulecka

    Welcome back

  9. Christian from PDX

    South Eastern Oregon is the most remote area of the lower 48 states. The area has been hit hard by poor management choices, especially: heavy grazing, off road vehicles, and fire retention. It unfortunately is home to gigantic populations of Cheat Grass, Bromus tectorum, which turns the hill sides red in the spring. There are some very well intact sage brush steppe communities though, in the Hart Mountain Antelope refuge very close to Plush. In late June the steppe is washed in the purple of lupines and hum of millions of relentless mosquitoes.

  10. Meagan

    I love that area of SE Oregon – It has a unique kind of remote, wildland beauty. This is also a great place to go birding in the late spring.

  11. crowangel

    Wow! This pulled-back perspective is refreshing: brings to mind the context for all of the species presented on BPotD… and having spent much of this summer in these environs myself, gives me a pleasant reminder of great times. Thank you!

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