Saturday, May 23, 2020

Hordeum jubatum (foxtail barley grass) in Baanf National Park

In 2008, I visited Baanf National Park and Jasper National Park in Canada.

In addition to the absolutely beautiful scenery (I highly recommend the place to visit), the area had lots of interesting grasses for us Orang Poa (grass people).

One of the interesting grasses I saw was during a trip to Lake Louise, when I noticed a purplish flowered "weeds" hugging the sides of the main path around the lake.

Hugging the path
 I looked more closely and was delighted to see that the grass had really beautiful inflorescences coming out of its somewhat bedraggled blades.

Lots of seedheads
I later identified the species as Hordeum jubatum, which is called foxtail barley grass by the locals. It is an ornamental grass in some areas due to its feathery fox-like seedheads, but it can also be quite dangerous to pets and the like because the awned seeds can attach and burrow into sensitive areas of dogs like their noses and ears, so deeply sometimes that surgery is needed to remove them.

But a more interesting tidbit is that this same grass was mentioned in this area more than a hundred years ago, in a gardening journal:

A striking feature of the national park landscape is the squirrel or fox-tailed grass, Hordeum jubatum. Clumps of it are found almost anywhere, but sometimes it takes posession of considerable areas of level ground, and, waving in the win on a sunshiny morning, is one of the most beautiful pictures imaginable.

- Gardening, vol 6, 1898 (Sept 15, 1897 - Sept 1, 1898)

I found it fascinating that the same grass that interested me today also enchanted visitors to the park more than a century ago!

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