Yellow-rattle

©Neil Wyatt

Yellow-rattle

Scientific name: Rhinanthus minor
Brush through a wildflower meadow at the height of summer and you'll hear the tiny seeds of yellow-rattle rattling in their brown pods, hence its name.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 45cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

May to September

About

When the flowers of yellow-rattle fade, the brown calyxes (containing the sepals) in which the tiny seeds ripen can be seen and heard - they give a distinctive 'rattle', hence the common name. Yellow-rattle is an annual that thrives in grasslands, living a semi-parasitic life by feeding off the nutrients in the roots of nearby grasses. For this reason, it was once seen as an indicator of poor grassland by farmers, but is now often used to turn improved grassland back to meadow - by feeding off the vigorous grasses, it eventually allows more delicate, traditional species to push their way through.

How to identify

Yellow-rattle has yellow, tube-like flowers protruding from an inflated, green calyx, which appear May to September. It has serrated leaves with heavy, dark veins, which sprout opposite each other all the way up the stem. Its stems have black spots.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

Yellow-rattle is the foodplant for the larvae of two rare moths, including the grass rivulet.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts look after many meadow habitats using traditional methods, such as hay-cutting, reseeding and grazing, for the benefit of local wildlife. We are also working closely with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices in these areas. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from stockwatching to surveying meadow flowers.