Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)

Yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor

This attractive native annual adds a splash of colour to grassland areas. It’s also great for boosting wild flower populations. 

One of the main problems that can occur in wildflower meadows is that grasses tend to take over after a number of years.  Yellow rattle feeds off the root systems of grasses, reducing the amount of grass and providing a better growing environment for wild flowers.

Yellow rattle is often used to complement existing wild flower mixes and to extend the longevity of previously sown sites. You can sow it as part of a mix (find it in your 2016 Grow Wild Scotland seed mix), or on its own in established meadows or grassland. 

Once established, it can reduce the competitive vigour of certain grasses by up to 50%, providing a more balanced habitat and benefiting other sown wild flowers.

How to sow:
  • Yellow rattle seed must be sown in autumn, as it needs to be chilled through the winter to trigger its germination the following spring.
  • ​The most suitable site for yellow rattle is grassland of low to medium fertility which is not dominated by coarse vigorous grasses.
  • Prepare for sowing by cutting the grass very short (25mm), or by grazing very hard, and open up sites for germination by raking to create at least 30% bare soil.
  • Scatter the seed on to the prepared surface.  Sow approximately 1.5g per square metre.
How to grow:
  • DO NOT cut the area between April and August. Yellow rattle is an annual species with short-lived seed and it needs a chance to set seed each year. Cutting or grazing between April and mid-August will usually eliminate the species by preventing it seeding - so this must be avoided.
  • The meadow can be cut after the yellow rattle seed has set, usually mid to late August.

Words by Mark Bryson, EcoSeeds.

Find out about more UK native wild flowers.