Alturas Field Office

Noxious Weeds


Medusahead   (Taeniatherum caput-medusae)
Grass Family (Poaceae)

Photo courtesy of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Botany Lab

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Description:  Aggressive winter annual 1/2 to 2 feet. Leaf blades generally 1/8 inch wide or less, rolled. Inflorescence long-awned spike nearly as wide as long. Mature awns or beards twisted, 1 to 4 inches long, stiff, finely barbed. Sometimes confused with foxtail or squirreltail, however spike head does not break apart as seeds mature. Individual awn-florets fall away, leaving a bristly head of awn-like glumes that will persist over winter.

Habitat:  Native to Eurasia. Extremely competitive crowding out many native and desirable plants, invaiding millions of acres of semi-arid rangeland. Appears more commonly on high shrink-swell clay soils. Infested rangelands have suffered up to 75% reductions in grazing capacity. Introduces fire into non-fire prone ecosystems. Control of small, isolated infestations is critical.

Distribution:  Medusahead is found scattered throughout most of northeastern California's rangelands.