|Yellow rattle, cockscomb|
Rhinanthus minor, the yellow rattle, little yellow rattle, hayrattle or cockscomb, is a flowering plant in the genus Rhinanthus in the family Orobanchaceae, native to Europe, northern North America, and Western Asia.
A herbaceous annual plant, yellow rattle is a hemi-parasitic that gains some of its nutrients from the roots of neighbouring plants. It grows to 25–50 centimetres (9+3⁄4–19+3⁄4 in) tall, with opposite, simple leaves, with a serrated margin. The flowers are yellow, produced on a terminal raceme. The fruit is a dry capsule, which contain loose, rattling seeds when ripe; the plant's name refers to these. Its preferred habitat is dry fields or meadows, where its flowering period is between June and September. The plant can associate with many different host species, notably Poaceae (grasses) and Fabaceae (legumes).
Distribution and habitat
In Ireland and Scotland, yellow rattle is often associated with Machair habitat. Research at the UK's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has shown that encouraging yellow rattle to grow in hay meadows greatly increases biodiversity by restricting grass growth and thereby allowing other species to thrive. The seeds are spread very effectively by traditional hay-making practices.
Ecology and cultivation
Yellow rattle can be cultivated by scarifying the surface of the ground with a fork or similar, then sowing onto short grass, 0.5–1 gram (0.018–0.035 oz) of seed per square metre. Yellow rattle seed is short-lived and should always be sown in the autumn, using seed harvested that year. Then, keep grass short for beginning of March when seedlings establish. Thereafter, the grass should not be cut until the end of July to allow the yellow rattle to flower and go to seed, then cut short.
- Gibson, C.C.; Watkinson, A.R. (1989). "The host range and selectivity of a parasitic plant: Rhinanthus minor L". Oecologia. 78 (401): 401–406. doi:10.1007/BF00379116.
- Gledhill, David (2008). The Names of Plants (4th ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521685535.
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