Yellow Rattle and Hay Meadows

Yellow rattle with other flowers

Hay meadow redolent with wild flowers.
Hay meadow redolent with wild flowers. | Source

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

Hay meadows redolent with wild flowers is a sight that has become increasingly rarer in the U.K. This is due to changes in Agricultural practices and loss through development as more and more of England's green and pleasant land disappears beneath building developments. here in Lancashie we are privileged to still being able to encounter them.

Personally I believe that these locations are at their best when the queen's of grassland flora -the orchids display their beautiful blooms among the grasses and other grassland flora.

Orchard in meadow

Orchids are the queens of grassland flora.
Orchids are the queens of grassland flora. | Source

In days gone by hay meadows hosted a plethora of grassland species, one in particular gave the farmer a good indication when the meadow grass was ready to be mown as hay. The yellow rattle Rhinanthus species are also commonly referred to as hay rattle. When the seeds of this plant are ripe they shake in their swollen capsules when moved by the wind or shaken by hand in the manner of a babies rattle. when this occurs the farmer knows his grass is mature enough to mow.

The species begins to flower in June {and may carry on through until September} however the first seeds are ripe by the end of July.

Yellow Rattle in Hay Meadow

YELLOW RATTLE
YELLOW RATTLE | Source

The rattle of the seeds and the colour of the flowers give this plant its common name. They are erect and quite rigid, composed of a stem which attains the height of between 20-35cm. The stems are adorn with wedge shaped foliage that are arranged in opposite pairs , each leaf is wedge shaped, stalkless and have deeply toothed margins and conspicuous veins. These stems are terminated by loose spikes of yellow, slipper like flowers. the calyx beneath the petals are large and inflated. The pale green colour of the calyx is unusual. The small flowers have two lips with tiny violet teeth on the upper lip.

Yellow rattle is a semi parasitic species extracting some of its nourishment from the roots of other plants that share its locality. When to many of them grow in a hay meadow they may have a detrimental affect on the hay yield. However, in the context of landscape gardening suppression of the grass is to be welcomed for it encourages other species of wild flowers to grow as opposed to grasses.

Top Hay meadow. Middle clover. Bottom Hawkbit

HAY MEADOWS --Yellow rattle encourages other species to grow.
HAY MEADOWS --Yellow rattle encourages other species to grow. | Source
Clover a common grassland plant
Clover a common grassland plant | Source
Wild flowers then attract insects which in turn attract the birds.
Wild flowers then attract insects which in turn attract the birds. | Source

Studies have revealed that Planting or sowing Yellow rattle among "thug" grasses such as rye grass or couch grass are usually doomed to fail. the grasses of this nature will not allow the plants to get established. they also revealed that the seeds of yellow rattle need to be exposed to a prolonged chilling through the winter to encourage germination the following spring.

At the Beacon Country Park {Where most of these photographs were taken} the grassland needs to be managed in order for the species to flourish. Cutting or grazing between April and July is detrimental to this annual species for this will prevent them from setting seed.  The grassland at th park is not mown until early August at the earliest when the seeds of yellow rattle and other species have been shed.

Yellow rattle with clover

Yellow rattle growing happily with clover and other species
Yellow rattle growing happily with clover and other species | Source

Rare Species of Yellow Rattle

Here in the U.K. we have a particularly rare species of yellow rattle Rhinanthus angustifolius the Greater yellow rattle, which is classed as being Nationally Rare. It was once widespread on arable land particularly in the east of the country, however, the bulk of the U.K. population is now confined to a handful of sights on the north downs in grassland and open scrub on chalk. These locations are in the vicinity of London.

These sites and the plants are now under a strict conservation regime. This includes monitoring and the maintenance/management of populations. Favourable management of sites being encouraged by land owners. Protection of any new populations discovered.

The greater yellow rattle is included on Schedule 8 {S.13a} of the Wildlife and Countryside Act !981 which is the back bone of wildlife protection in the England {and Wales} which gives them additional protection-It is illegal to intentionally pick them or the taking of seeds. It is illegal to sell or possess any part of the plant including the seeds.

they are placed on the list of Priority Species and as such had a Species action Plan formulated for their conservation, this plan is currently being implemented by conservation bodies which include the London Biodiversity Partnership.

The genus name of Rhinanthus, literally  means nose {snout} flower, it alludes to the shape of the flowers.


Swollen seed capsules

The swollen seed vessels of the yellow rattle.
The swollen seed vessels of the yellow rattle. | Source

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Comments 5 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Thank you for everybody that have taken the time to leave a comment on YELLOW RATTLE AND HAY MEADOWS, They are appreciated.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

DARSKI--welcome home. Thank you for your visit and for your warmly appreciated comments. Hope that now all is improving for you. You have a lot of catching up to do. Missed you.Best wishes to you.

Racing saturday, thank you for your visit. Appreciated.

jill of all trades. Your welcome, it is a pleasure to share thank you for your visit. Best wishes to you.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

DARSKI--welcome home. Thank you for your visit and for your warmly appreciated comments. Hope that now all is improving for you. You have a lot of catching up to do. Missed you.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines

What a beautiful hub! I enjoyed all the photos and the wonderful explanation. YOur hubs are always like nature walks for me.

Voted up and beautiful!

Thanks for sharing David!


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 5 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Hello my dear dear friend, as always such a great pleasure and joy to read your hubs, your love for natures matches your awesome friendship...We are now into losing all our leaf's and winter is around the corner. I am happy to be home, a long and emotional journey...miss you, love darski

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