13.08  TRITICUM L.

Laura A. Morrison

Plants annual. Culms 14–180 cm, solitary or branched at the base; internodes usually hollow throughout in hexaploids, usually solid for about 1 cm below the spike in diploids and tetraploids, even if hollow below. Sheaths open; auricles present, often deciduous at maturity; ligules membranous; blades flat, glabrous or pubescent. Inflorescences usually terminal spikes, distichous, with 1 spikelet per node, occasionally branched; internodes (0.5)1.4–8 mm; disarticulation in the rachis, the spikelets usually falling with the internode below to form a wedge-shaped diaspore, sometimes falling with the adjacent internode to form a barrel-shaped diaspore, domesticated taxa usually non-disarticulating, or disarticulating only under pressure. Spikelets 10–25(40) mm, usually 1–3 times the length of the internodes, appressed to ascending, with 2–9 florets, the distal florets often sterile. Glumes subequal, ovate, rectangular, or lanceolate, chartaceous to coriaceous, usually stiff, tightly to loosely appressed to the lower florets, with 1 prominent keel, at least distally, keels often winged and ending in a tooth or awn, a second keel or prominent lateral vein present in some taxa; lemmas keeled, chartaceous to coriaceous, 2 lowest lemmas usually awned, awns 3–23 cm, scabrous, distal lemmas unawned or awned, awns to 2 cm; paleas hyaline-membranous, splitting at maturity in diploid taxa; anthers 3. Caryopses tightly (hulled wheats) or loosely (naked wheats) enclosed by the glumes and lemmas, lemmas and paleas not adherent; endosperm flinty or mealy. x = 7. Haplomes A, B, D, and G. Triticum is the classical Latin name for wheat.

Triticum is a genus of approximately 25 wild and domesticated species. It was first cultivated in western Asia at least 9,000 years ago and is now the world’s most important crop, being planted more widely than any other genus.

Triticum is native to western and central Asia. It includes diploids (A haplome), tetraploids (AB or AG haplomes), and hexaploids (ABD or AAG haplomes). The world’s only reserve designed to protect native populations of wild cereals, the Erebuni Reserve, is located just outside Yerevan, Armenia. It is home to three wild species of Triticum: T. araraticum Jakubz., T. boeoticum, and T. urartu.

Only Triticum aestivum, T. durum, and T. spelta are grown commercially in North America, T. aestivum being by far the most important. The remaining species in this treatment are those most frequently grown by North American plant breeders and wheat researchers. None of the species has become an established part of the North American flora, but they may be encountered as escapes near agricultural fields and research stations, or along transportation routes.

Triticum is sometimes treated as including Aegilops, but the taxa in these genera differ morphologically and ecologically. In addition, species of Triticum sensu stricto are unique in possessing the A haplome, of which there are two forms, Au and Ab. Of the other three haplomes present in Triticum, the D haplome is derived from Aegilops tauschii (Dvorak et al. 1998), and the B and G haplomes are thought to be derived from an S-haplome taxon of Aegilops (Giorgi et al. 2003).

The treatment presented here is based on Dorofeev and Migushova’s (1979) monograph of Triticum sensu stricto, with some modification. The assignment of species status to domesticated forms is controversial. It is done here for convenience, and to aid in distinguishing between taxa with distinct morphological, ecological, and evolutionary traits. For a genomically based treatment, see Kimber and Sears (1987).

“Spring wheat” and “winter wheat” refer to the growing season. Spring wheat is planted in the spring and harvested in the summer of the same year; winter wheat is planted in the fall and harvested the following summer. “Hard wheat” and “soft wheat” are terms used to describe wheats with flinty or mealy endosperm, respectively. Flinty endosperm has a higher protein content and is harder than mealy endosperm. At the species level, soft wheat refers to T. aestivum; hard wheat refers to T. durum. Within T. aestivum, endosperm type also is graded as either soft or hard; it is never as hard (flinty) as in T. durum.

The width of a spike is the distance from one spikelet edge to the other across the two-rowed side of the spike; its thickness is the distance across the frontal face of spikelet, from one edge to the other. The spike and spikelet measurements do not include the awns. The glumes are measured from the base to the shoulder, and do not include any toothed tip.

SELECTED REFERENCES Dorofeev, V.F. and E.F. Migushova. 1979. Pshenitsa [Wheat]. (Vol. 1 in V.F. Dorofeev and O.N. Korovina (eds.). Kul’turnaia Flora SSSR [Flora of Cultivated Plants of the USSR]). Kolos, Leningrad [St. Petersburg], Russia. 346 pp. [In Russian; English translation (in prep.) used]; Dvorak, J., Z.-C. Luo, Z.-L. Yang, and H.-B. Zhang. 1998. The structure of the Aegilops tauschii genepool and the evolution of hexaploid wheat. Theor. Appl. Genet. 97:657–670; Giorgi, D., R. D’Ovidio, O.A. Tanzarella, C. Ceoloni, and E. Porceddu. 2003. Isolation and characterization of S genome specific sequences from Aegilops sect. Sitopsis species. Genome 46:478489; Kimber, G. and E.R. Sears. 1987. Evolution in the genus Triticum and the origin of cultivated wheat. Pp. 154–164 in E.G. Heyne (ed.). Wheat and Wheat Improvement, ed. 2. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A. 765 pp.; Morrison, L.A. 2001. The Percival Herbarium and wheat taxonomy: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow Pp. 65–80 in P.D.S. Caligari and P.E. Brandham (eds.) Wheat Taxonomy: The Legacy of John Percival. Linnean Special Issue No. 3. Academic Press, London, England. 190 pp.; Percival, J. 1921. The Wheat Plant. Duckworth, London, England. 463 pp.

1. Culms usually hollow to the base of the spikes; glumes with only 1 keel, this often developed only in the upper 1/2 of the glumes.

2. Glumes loosely appressed to the lower florets; rachises not disarticulating, even under pressure..... 11. T. aestivum

2. Glumes tightly appressed to the lower florets; rachises disarticulating under pressure.

3. Spikes almost cylindrical; glumes truncate.................................................................. 12. T. spelta

3. Spikes strongly flattened; glumes acute................................................................ 5. T. timopheevii

1. Culms partially to completely solid 1 cm below the spikes; glumes with 1 fully developed keel, sometimes with a second keel.

4. Rachises not disarticulating, even under pressure; glumes loosely appressed to the lower florets.

5. Glumes chartaceous.

6. Glumes 20–40 mm long; rachises enlarged at the base of the glumes; spikelets producing 2–3 caryopses....................................................................................................... 9. T. polonicum

6. Glumes 6–13 mm long; rachises not enlarged at the base of the glumes; spikelets usually producing 1 caryopsis.................................................................................. 4. T. monococcum

5. Glumes coriaceous.

7. Glumes awned, awns 1–6 cm long; spikes thicker than wide, never branched at the base...... 10. T. carthlicum

7. Glumes toothed, teeth to 0.3 cm long; spikes about as wide as thick, sometimes branched at the base.

8. Spikes 4–11 cm long, never branched at the base; plants 60–160 cm tall; blades usually glabrous; endosperm usually flinty..................................................................... 7. T. durum

8. Spikes 7–14 cm long, sometimes branched at the base; plants 120–180 cm tall; blades hairy; endosperm mealy.......................................................................................... 8. T. turgidum

4. Rachises disarticulating, spontaneously or with pressure; glumes usually tightly appressed to the lower florets.

9. Paleas splitting at maturity; spikelets 10–17 mm long.

10.  Spikelets elliptical to ovate; rachis internodes 1.4–2.5 mm long; rachises disarticulating with pressure.................................................................................................... 4. T. monococcum

10.  Spikelets rectangular; rachis internodes 3–5 mm long; rachises disarticulating spontaneously.

11.  Caryopses blue or amber or red mottled with blue; third lemma in each spikelet, if present, usually unawned; blades blue-green, hairs stiff, those on the veins longer than those between; anthers 3–6 mm long............................................................................... 1. T. boeoticum

11.  Caryopses red; third lemma in each spikelet, if present, awned, the awns up to 10 mm long; blades yellow-green, hairs soft, of uniform length; anthers 2–4 mm long............. 2. T. urartu

9. Paleas not splitting at maturity; spikelets 10–25 mm long.

12.  Spikelets oblong to rectangular; rachises disarticulating spontaneously; glumes unequally 2-keeled, the more prominent keel winged to the base........................................ 3. T. dicoccoides

12.  Spikelets elliptical to ovate; rachises disarticulating only with pressure; glumes with 1 prominent keel, the keel not winged to the base.

13.  Spikelets 16–18 mm long; rachis internodes 1.5–2.5 mm long; spikes always wider than thick; culms partially solid to hollow for 1 cm below the spikes................. 5. T. timopheevii

13.  Spikelets 10–16 mm long; rachis internodes (0.5)2–5 mm long; spikes variously shaped, from cylindrical to wider than thick; culms usually solid for 1 cm below the spike.. 6. T. dicoccum

1. Triticum boeoticum Boiss.

Wild Einkorn

Culms to 160 cm, decumbent at the base; nodes pubescent; internodes mostly hollow, solid for 1 cm below the spike. Blades 5–15 mm wide, blue-green, hirsute, with long hairs over the veins, shorter hairs between the veins, hairs stiff. Spikes 5–14 cm, wider than thick; rachises densely ciliate at the nodes and margins; internodes 3–5 mm; disarticulation spontaneous, dispersal units wedge-shaped. Spikelets 12–17 mm, rectangular, with 2–3 florets, 1–2 seed-forming. Glumes 6–11 mm, coriaceous, tightly appressed to the lower florets, 2-keeled, with 2 prominent teeth; lemmas 10–14 mm, first (and sometimes the second) lemma awned, awns to 11 cm, third lemma usually unawned; paleas splitting at maturity; anthers 3–6 mm. Caryopses of the lowest floret in each spikelet usually blue, that of the second amber or red with blue mottling; endosperm flinty. Haplome Ab. 2n = 14.

Triticum boeoticum is a wild diploid wheat that is native from the Balkans through the Caucasus to Iran and Afghanistan, and south to Iraq. It is morphologically similar to and, in its native range, sometimes sympatric with T. urartu, another wild diploid wheat. Triticum monococcum is the domesticated derivative of T. boeoticum.

Boissier published the combination for this species both as “Triticum baeoticum and “T. boeoticum. Because the type specimen is from Boeotia [Greece], “boeoticum is the correct spelling of the epithet.

2. Triticum urartu Tumanian ex Gandilyan

Red Wild Einkorn

Culms to 145 cm, decumbent at the base; nodes pubescent; internodes mostly hollow, solid for 1 cm below the spikes. Blades 7–10 mm wide, yellow-green, puberulent, hairs uniform in length, soft. Spikes 6–12 cm, wider than thick; rachises densely ciliate at the nodes and margins; internodes 3–5 mm; disarticulation spontaneous, dispersal units wedge-shaped. Spikelets 12–16 mm, rectangular, with 2–3 florets, 1–2 seed-forming. Glumes 8–11 mm, coriaceous, tightly appressed to the lower florets, 2-keeled, 2-toothed, second tooth not well-developed; lemmas 10–13 mm, awned, awns on the lower 2 lemmas to 7 cm, on the third lemma to 1 cm; paleas splitting at maturity; anthers 2–4 mm. Caryopses red, that of the lowest floret in each spikelet darker than the second; endosperm flinty. Haplome Au. 2n = 14.

Triticum urartu is the wild diploid wheat that contributed the A haplome to the durum and bread wheat evolutionary lines. It does not have a diploid domesticated form. Because of its close morphological similarity to T. boeoticum, T. urartu was included in T. boeoticum until genetic analysis showed it to be a separate species. It has a more limited distribution than T. boeoticum, being known from disjunct regions in Turkey, Lebanon, Armenia, western Iran, and eastern Iraq.

3. Triticum dicoccoides (Körn.) Körn. ex Schweinf.

Wild Emmer

Culms to 100 cm, decumbent; nodes glabrous or puberulent; internodes mostly hollow, solid for 1 cm below the spikes. Blades 4–6 mm wide, pubescent. Spikes to 10 cm, wider than thick; rachises densely hairy at the nodes and margins; internodes 3–8 mm; disarticulation spontaneous, dispersal units wedge-shaped. Spikelets 15–25 mm, oblong to rectangular, with 3 florets, usually the lower 2 seed-forming. Glumes 10–15 mm, coriaceous, tightly appressed to the lower florets, 2-keeled, prominent keel winged to the base, 2-toothed, second tooth poorly developed; lemmas 10–15 mm, awned, awns on the lower 2 lemmas to 15 cm, on the third lemma to 2 cm; paleas not splitting at maturity. Endosperm flinty. Haplomes AuB. 2n = 28.

Triticum dicoccoides is the wild counterpart of T. dicoccum, and is an ancestor of both T. durum and T. aestivum. Morphologically, it is almost indistinguishable from Triticum araraticum Jakubz., a wild tetraploid that differs from T. dicoccoides in combining the Ab and G haplomes. Triticum dicoccoides is native to the Fertile Crescent. Its distribution overlaps that of T. araraticum in the northern and eastern portions of the region.

4. Triticum monococcum L.

Einkorn, Small Spelt, Petit Épeautre

Culms to 120 cm; nodes pilose; internodes mostly hollow, solid for 1 cm below the spikes. Blades 6–7 mm wide, pubescent. Spikes 4–9 cm, strongly flattened, wider than thick; rachises glabrous or sparsely ciliate at the nodes and margins, not enlarged at the base of the glumes; internodes 1.4–2.5 mm, not disarticulating or disarticulating only with pressure, dispersal units wedge-shaped. Spikelets 10–12 mm, elliptical to ovate, with 2–3 florets, usually only 1 seed-forming. Glumes 6–8(13) mm, usually coriaceous and tightly appressed to the lower florets, sometimes chartaceous and only loosely appressed to the florets, 2-keeled, 2-toothed; lemmas 8–11 mm, lower 2 lemmas awned, awns 3–8 cm; paleas splitting at maturity. Caryopses amber; endosperm flinty. Haplome Ab. 2n = 14.

Triticum monococcum is the domesticated derivative of T. boeoticum. Its primary range extends from the Balkans and Romania through the Crimea and Caucasus to northern Iraq and western Iran, and south to northern Africa. It was originally introduced to the Flora region as a food crop, but is now used primarily for plant breeding. It is still grown as a crop plant in some parts of the Balkans and in Romania.

Plants that originated from a spontaneous mutation and have tough rachises and chartaceous glumes that loosely enclose, but do not conceal, the florets have been named Triticum sinskajae A.A. Filatenko & U.K. Kurkiev.

5. Triticum timopheevii (Zhuk.) Zhuk.

Timopheev’s Wheat

Culms to 140 cm; nodes glabrous or pubescent; internodes mostly hollow, partially solid to hollow for 1 cm below the spikes. Blades to 10 mm wide, densely hairy, hairs 1.5–4 mm. Spikes 5–7 cm, strongly flattened, wider than thick; rachises ciliate at the nodes and margins; internodes 1.5–2.5 mm, disarticulating with pressure, dispersal units wedge-shaped. Spikelets 16–18 mm, elliptical to ovate, strongly flattened, with 3 florets, usually the lower 2 seed-forming. Glumes 7–10 mm, usually coriaceous and tightly appressed to the lower florets, sometimes chartaceous, acute, with 1 prominent keel, keel winged only in the distal 2/3, terminating in a tooth; lemmas 10–12 mm, lower 2 lemmas awned, awns to 9 cm; paleas not splitting at maturity. Endosperm flinty. Haplomes AbG. 2n = 28.

Triticum timopheevii is the domesticated derivative of T. araraticum Jakubz. It is established in Georgia, Armenia, and northeastern Turkey. It differs from other species of Triticum in its long leaf hairs and their relatively higher density. Plants with tough rachises and chartaceous glumes have been named Triticum militinae Zhuk. & Migush.

6. Triticum dicoccum Schrank ex Schübl.

Emmer, Farro, Far

Culms 80–150 cm, decumbent; nodes glabrous or pubescent; internodes mostly hollow, solid for 1 cm below the spikes. Blades to 20 mm wide, pubescent. Spikes 5–10 cm, about as wide as thick to wider than thick, cylindrical to strongly flattened; rachises glabrous or shortly ciliate at the nodes and margins; internodes (0.5)2–5 mm, disarticulating with pressure, dispersal units wedge-shaped. Spikelets 10–16 mm, elliptical to ovate, with 3–4 florets, usually only the lower 2 seed-forming. Glumes 6–10 mm, coriaceous, tightly appressed to the lower florets, with 1 prominent keel, keel winged only in the upper 2/3, terminating in a tooth; lemmas 9–12 mm, awned, awns on the lowest 2 lemmas to 17 cm, upper lemmas unawned or shortly awned; paleas not splitting at maturity. Endosperm flinty. Haplomes AuB. 2n = 28.

Triticum dicoccum is the domesticated derivative of T. dicoccoides. It was once grown fairly extensively in central and southern Europe, southern Russia, northern Africa, and Arabia, because it can withstand poor, waterlogged soils. It is rarely grown now. It was introduced to the Flora region as a feed grain and forage for livestock. Currently, its primary use in the region is for plant breeding; it is also sold for human consumption as farro in specialty food markets.

7. Triticum durum Desf.

Durum Wheat, Macaroni Wheat, Hard Wheat, Blé Dur

Culms 60–160 cm; nodes glabrous; internodes mostly hollow, solid for 1 cm below the spikes. Blades 7–16 mm, usually glabrous. Spikes 4–11 cm, about as wide as thick, never branched; rachises ciliate to partially ciliate at the nodes and margins, not disarticulating; internodes 3–6 mm. Spikelets 10–15 mm, with 5–7 florets, 2–4 seed-forming. Glumes 8–12 mm, coriaceous, loosely appressed to the lower florets, with 1 prominent keel, terminating in a tooth, tooth to 0.3 cm; lemmas 10–12 mm, lower 2 lemmas awned, awns to 23 cm; paleas not splitting at maturity. Endosperm usually flinty, sometimes mealy. Haplomes AuB. 2n = 28.

Triticum durum is a domesticated spring wheat that is grown in temperate climates throughout the world. In the Flora region, it is grown in the Canadian prairies and northern Great Plains as a spring wheat, and in the southwestern United States and Mexico as a winter wheat. Triticum durum is typically used for macaroni-type pastas, semolina, and bulghur. Durum imparts a yellowish color to bread, and is the traditional wheat for flat breads and pita. Cultivars grown in the Flora region represent a minor sampling of the overall diversity in the species.

The commercial cultivar Kamut® is durum wheat. Grown in the Flora region and worldwide, it encompasses a variable collection of forms. Kamut® has also been identified as T. turanicum Jakubz. (a durum-like wheat from Iran) or T. polonicum, although its presumed Egyptian origin and spike morphology do not agree with the original concept of these species.

8. Triticum turgidum L.

Rivet Wheat, Cone Wheat, Blé Poulard

Culms 120–180 cm; nodes glabrous; internodes mostly hollow, solid for 1 cm below the spikes. Blades to 18 mm wide, shortly pubescent to villous. Spikes 7–14 cm, about as wide as thick, except when branched below; rachises hairy at the nodes and margins, not disarticulating. Spikelets 10–16 mm, with 5–7 florets, 2–5 seed-forming. Glumes 8–11 mm, coriaceous, loosely appressed to the lower florets, with 1 prominent keel, terminating in a tooth, tooth to 0.3 cm; lemmas 10–13 mm, lowest 2 lemmas awned, awns to 20 cm; paleas not splitting at maturity. Endosperm mealy. Haplomes AuB. 2n = 28.

Triticum turgidum is the tallest of the wheats, and differs from other species of domesticated wheat in having branched-spike forms. It is grown primarily in southern Europe, northern Iraq, southern Iran, and western Pakistan. As treated here, T. turgidum is a narrowly distributed taxon of minor importance in plant breeding. Under genomic classifications, however, the name is applied to all AuB taxa, e.g., to T. polonicum, T. durum, and T. carthlicum, as well as to T. turgidum sensu stricto.

9. Triticum polonicum L.

Polish Wheat

Culms 100–160 cm; nodes glabrous; internodes mostly hollow, solid for 1 cm below the spikes. Blades to 20 mm wide, glabrous or pubescent. Spikes 7–16 cm, wider than thick or about as wide as thick; rachises enlarged at the base of the glumes, sparsely hairy at the nodes and margins, not disarticulating. Spikelets 25–40 mm, with 4–5 florets, 2–3 seed-forming. Glumes 20–40 mm, often concealing the florets, lanceolate, chartaceous, loosely appressed to the lower florets, with 1 prominent keel, apices acute, terminating in a tooth; lemmas to 30 mm, chartaceous, toothed or awned, awns on the lower 2 lemmas to 15 cm; paleas not splitting at maturity. Endosperm flinty. Haplomes AuB. 2n = 28.

Triticum polonicum is a minor, durum-like, spring wheat species. It is grown in the Mediterranean basin and central Asia on a small scale. In the Flora region, it is grown principally for plant breeding. It differs from other domesticated wheats in its unusually long, chartaceous glumes and lemmas. The epithet “polonicum” reflects an early European botanical bias; the species did not originate in Poland.

10.  Triticum carthlicum Nevski

Persian Wheat

Culms 60–100 cm; nodes glabrous or pubescent; internodes mostly hollow, solid for 1 cm below the spikes. Blades to 10 mm, puberulent. Spikes 8–16 cm, thicker than wide to about as thick as wide, not branched at the base; rachises glabrous or shortly ciliate at the nodes and margins, not disarticulating. Spikelets 10–15 mm, with 3–5 florets, 2–4 seed-forming. Glumes 7–9 mm, coriaceous, loosely appressed to the lower florets, with 1 prominent keel, terminating in an awn, awns 1–6 cm; lemmas 8.5–12.5 mm, lower 2 lemmas awned, awns to 13 cm; paleas not splitting at maturity. Caryopses red; endosperm flinty. Haplomes AuB. 2n = 28.

Triticum carthlicum is of evolutionary interest because, morphologically, its spikes resemble those of T. aestivum rather than those of free-threshing tetraploid wheats such as T. durum, T. turgidum, and T. polonicum. It is still occasionally cultivated in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, northern Iraq, and Iran because of its resistance to drought, frost, and ergot infection. A morphologically similar form of T. aestivum with awned glumes, known as ‘carthlicoides’, is often found intermixed with T. carthlicum.

11.  Triticum aestivum L.

Wheat, Bread Wheat, Common Wheat, Soft Wheat, Blé Cultivé, Blé Commun

Culms 14–150 cm; nodes glabrous or pubescent; internodes usually hollow, even immediately below the spikes. Blades 6–15(20) mm wide, glabrous or pubescent. Spikes (3.5)6–18 cm, usually thicker than wide to about as thick as wide, wider than thick in compact forms; rachises shortly ciliate at the nodes and margins, not disarticulating. Spikelets 10–15 mm, appressed or ascending, with 3–9 florets, 2–5 seed-forming. Glumes 6–12 mm, coriaceous, loosely appressed to the lower florets, usually keeled in the upper 1/2, sometimes prominently keeled to the base, terminating in a tooth or awn, awns to 4 cm; lemmas 10–15 mm, toothed or awned, awns to 12 cm; paleas not splitting at maturity. Endosperm mealy to flinty. Haplomes AuBD. 2n = 42.

Triticum aestivum is the most widely cultivated wheat. Both winter and spring types are grown in the Flora region. In addition to being grown for bread flour, T. aestivum cultivars are used for pastry-grade flour, Oriental-style soft noodles, and cereals.

Club wheats, sometimes called Triticum compactum Host, are cultivated in the Pacific Northwest for export to Asian markets. They have short (3.5–6 cm), compressed spikes, with up to 25 spikelets having 2–6 florets. Their spike shape varies from oblong or oval with uniformly distributed spikelets to club-shaped with spikelets crowded towards the apex.

No wild hexaploid progenitors of Triticum aestivum are known, but the two distinguishing characteristics of wild Tritcum species, fragile rachises breaking into wedge-shaped units and closely appressed glumes, are found in plants cultivated in Tibet and named T. aestivum subsp. tibetanum J.Z. Shao.

12.  Triticum spelta L.

Spelt, Dinkel, Épeautre, Grand Épeautre

Culms 80–120 cm; nodes glabrous or pubescent; internodes hollow, even immediately below the spikes. Blades 12–20 mm wide, sparsely pubescent. Spikes 6–20 cm, about as wide as thick, slender, almost cylindrical, narrowing distally; rachises glabrous or sparsely hairy at the nodes and margins, disarticulating with pressure, disarticulation units barrel-shaped or wedge-shaped. Spikelets 12–16 mm, with 3–5 florets, 1–3 seed-forming. Glumes 5–10 mm, coriaceous, tightly appressed to the lower florets, truncate, with 1 prominent keel, keel winged to the base, terminating in a tooth; lemmas 8–12 mm, toothed or awned, awns on the lower 2 lemmas to 10 cm, the third lemma sometimes awned, awns to 2 cm; paleas not splitting at maturity. Endosperm usually flinty. Haplomes AuBD. 2n = 42.

In the Flora region, Triticum spelta is grown for the specialty food and feed grain markets. It is known for yielding a pastry-grade flour not suitable for bread making unless mixed with T. aestivum, the bread-quality flour. Modern plant breeding programs are improving its gluten profile to upgrade its bread-making quality. Consequently, claims that T. spelta is a safe option for consumers with gluten intolerance are misleading.

The ability of Triticum spelta to break under pressure into barrel-shaped units similar to those found in Aegilops cylindrica distinguishes it from all other members of Triticum.