Saturday, 19 October 2013

Wildflower Focus - Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus Minor)

Yellow Rattle

One of the first questions I asked when we got our little field is what should I plant to try to increase diversity. At the time I didn't know what was in our field apart from grass and weeds. The answer from a few people working in the Wildlife Trust was try Yellow Rattle.

Looking a bit deeper into what Yellow Rattle was I soon saw why it had been recommended.

It is a native Wild Flower that gains some of it's nutrients from the roots of other plants. The common name comes from the fact it is yellow and the seeds rattle when ripe and dry. By robbing other plants of some nutrients it has the effect of reducing the size or the amount of it's neighbouring plants, especially grass. This allows other plants to grow. Since Yellow Rattle is an Annual it can die back leaving bare soil in it's place where other seeds can germinate.

Yellow Rattle seed needs to be sown in the Autumn using the same year's seed and it needs a cold spell to allow it to germinate around March. It will flower in June / July and seeds will ripen around the end of July. It will typically grow to a height of 20 to 50cm.

We have sown several packets directly over the grass although this has been an experiment since the soil should be scared or bare ideally. We also put a couple of packets in the freezer for about a month as was suggested in several places and when we sow these packets in November we will rake or scratch the grass / soil and sow into the bare soil. It'll be noted as to where the second sowing, which have been in the freezer, are sown so that it can be seen how successful both methods of sowing were.

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