Hordelymus europaeus

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPoaceaeHordelymusHordelymus europaeus


A perennial herb of woods and copses on calcareous soils, especially in sheltered beech woodlands and along medieval boundary banks and old hedgerows. Generally lowland, but reaching 440 m at Brough (Westmorland).



World Distribution

European Temperate element.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Broadleaved, mixed and yew woodland

Light (Ellenberg): 6

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 7

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.2

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.5

Annual Precipitation (mm): 788

Height (cm): 120

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Tussock-forming graminoid, may slowly spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 185

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 1

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.12

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Hordelymus europaeus (L.) Jessen

Wood barley

Status: scarce



This grass usually grows on wood banks and hedgerows, often occurring on or near medieval woodland boundary banks. It is often round under the high canopy of Ulmus spp. and in the shade of shrubs such as Corylus avellana and Sambucus nigra in sites near the edge of the wood where some light penetrates from the margin. Most sites are over chalk and limestone; it is less frequent on calcareous boulder clay. Plant associates include several common woodland species such as, Anthriscus sylvestris, Galium aparine, Geum urbanum, Glechoma hederacea, Hedera helix, Heracleum sphondylium, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Mercurialis perennis, Rubus spp. and Urtica dioica

It is a perennial reproducing by seed.

H. europaeus is usually found in a wood as discrete colonies, which are often small. It persists in woods which are managed by coppicing or periodic clear­-felling, and the only real threat lies in the destruction of old woodland.

H. europaeus is found in Europe, North Africa and western Asia. It is widespread in this area but has a curiously discontinuous distribution (Hulten & Fries 1986).



P. J. O. Trist

Atlas text references

Atlas (391d)
Curtis TGF, McGough HN
1988.  The Irish Red Data Book. 1. Vascular Plants.
Hackney P
1992.  Stewart & Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland, edn 3.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.