Taxonomy of the Genus Hordeum and Barley (Hordeum vulgare)

  • Frank R. Blattner
Part of the Compendium of Plant Genomes book series (CPG)


Barley refers to the cereal Hordeum vulgare subsp. vulgare but also more generally to the barley genus Hordeum that, apart from cultivated barley, comprises more than 30 wild grass species distributed in temperate and arid regions of the world. Like wheat and rye, Hordeum belongs to the Triticeae tribe of grasses, most conspicuously characterized by their inflorescence that is a spike instead of the panicle that occurs in most other grasses. The wild progenitor of the cereal is H. vulgare subsp. spontaneum from Southwest Asia. Together with bulbous barley (Hordeum bulbosum), the closest relative of the crop, and wall barley (Hordeum murinum) these species are grouped within subgenus Hordeum, while all other species belong to subgenus Hordeastrum. The crop is easily crossable with its wild progenitor (forming the primary gene pool of barley), while hybrids between cultivated and bulbous barley (secondary gene pool) exhibit low fertility. All other species belong to the tertiary gene pool, resulting in sterile hybrids that can only be established through embryo rescue techniques. However, barley’s tertiary gene pool holds traits for pathogen resistances and adaptations to extreme environmental conditions, which are of high value if they can be transferred into cultivated barley or other cereals. Taxonomic and nomenclatural issues are discussed here in the light of recent findings in molecular systematics and gene function.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)GaterslebenGermany

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