Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)
Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) is an attractive, partially parasitic, annual wildflower of grasslands. It's part of the Figwort family, and used to be widespread across the UK on mostly neutral soils. Once it's established it can reduce the vigour of many grasses by up to 50%, thus benefiting other sown wildflowers - check out our blog on how to grow and manage it. Once it dies back, each Rattle plant also leaves a space for wildflowers to fill. It's a helpful plant for pollinators too.
For obvious reasons farmers weren't ever terribly keen on Rhinanthus minor. That said, as it is an annual it's easy to mow out before it sets seed (when it rattles) in July. This was traditionally time to cut the hay; hence its synonym, "Hay Rattle". Its seed has a notoriously short viability too - you must sow from this season's harvest. It will also disappear in thick, unmanaged sward. Nowadays, silage cuts over the summer stop it from seeding. Needless to say, it's much less common than it used to be a hundred years ago.
Rattle seeds are light flat discs, designed to be wind blown. The seedlings are very early to appear, in March, so that they steal a march on the surrounding grasses. Be careful not to mow them out! Once they've got going they are easy to spot, however, and the flowers look a little like yellow snapdragons or little cockscombs. They're very pretty. The plants grow to around 50cm tops.
Yellow Rattle seed must be sown from summer to early winter, up to Christmas, as it needs to be chilled - "stratified" - to trigger its germination the following spring. We recommend adding the seed to a newly established meadow after its first season. As it doesn't last the seeds need to be as fresh as possible. It also reacts badly to being badly handled - it's tricky to process properly. You need to be careful where you source it from. Our Rhinanthus seed is freshly harvested from meadows around southern England. We test it once it has been harvested and cleaned to check on the seeds' viability. We don't store it for longer than 12 months.
Our Seed For Sale
Sowing rate: Up to 1g per square metre.
Rattle seed may be ordered in 0.1 kg increments from 0.1 kg upwards. Quantities up to 10 kilos at the kilo rate, thereafter prices on request. We also now sell smaller quantities at our sister website:
The seed we sell is always from the current harvest, and is carefully processed to avoid damage and low germination.
We donate half of our profit on sales of Yellow Rattle seeds to The Bumblebee Conservation Trust
We strongly recommend reading up on meadows before buying Yellow Rattle seed. Although our Rhinanthus minor seed has high germination rates, you need to be careful about initial care and establishing an annual regime. Don't be put off though - once you get the hang of it it's pretty straightforward.