Plants annual; loosely tufted. Culms 10-55 cm, erect; nodes glabrous. Basal sheaths pubescent; ligules 0.3-0.8 mm; auricles absent; blades to 7.5(13.5) cm long, to 4.5 mm wide, sparsely to densely pubescent on both sides. Spikes 2.2-7 cm long, 4-8 mm wide, often partially enclosed at maturity, pale green or with a reddish tinge to the glumes and awns. Glumes straight, ascending to slightly divergent at maturity. Central spikelets: glumes 5.5-20.5 mm long, to 0.5 mm wide, setaceous to slightly flattened near the base; lemmas 5-9 mm, glabrous, awned, awns 3-12 mm; anthers 0.5-1.5 mm. Lateral spikelets sterile or staminate, occasionally bisexual; glumes 5-20 mm; lower glumes slightly flattened near the base; upper glumes setaceous throughout; lemmas 1.8-8.5 mm, unawned or awned, awns to 1 mm. 2n = 28.
Hordeum depressum grows in vernal pools and ephemeral habitats, often in alkaline soil. It is restricted to the western United States.