Hare barley is a harmful plant

Hare barley seed heads showing awns that can be harmful to pets
Hare barley seed heads showing awns

Hare barley and some other grasses,  such as foxtail barley and purple three awn grass, have characteristics that can be harmful to pets.  These grasses are harmful plants that have awns, long threadlike extensions from the florets in the seed head.  These awn have very small backward angled spines.  These awn can enter a pets eyes, nostrils, ears, or even penetrate their skin.  The backward spines prevent the awns from working out the way they entered, they only work deeper into the eyes, nostrils, ears, or skin.  A few years ago my pet Brittany, Joy, had one enter between her toes and work deeply into her paw.  She began limping and the veterinarian had to extract the awn.  This is when I learned that this is an extremely common problem for pets.

Hare barley seed heads developing
Hare Barley

In a year like this year when there has been little rain (just over 1 inch from October to late April), anything green seems to be a blessing, but that may not be the case, especially if you have pets.  In garden hare barley and foxtail barley are sprouting and the hare barley is beginning to produce seed heads.  I think I have eliminated purple three awn grass from my garden, but I will be watching for it.  All these grasses are pretty, so it is tempting to allow them to remain, but if you have pets it is best to eliminate these grasses.

There are herbicides labeled for management of these grass weeds and other harmful plants, but if you are like me and have pets you may prefer to use manual means of weed management.  Hoeing them when they first appear in late winter is helpful.  If they are numerous and you cannot manage them by hoeing, you can use a torch to burn them, but be careful that you do not start a fire or damage desirable nearby plants.  This year’s drought has been a blessing in limiting the number of plants that are growing to a relatively manageable few in my garden.  I have been pulling, digging, and hoeing them for several months.  Now, as the seed heads form and I can specifically identify the worst of the weed grasses, those with harmful awns, I can specifically target those plants.

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