Yellow rattle is a common hemiparasitic plant (2). The yellow flowers occur in spikes. After they die, brown seed pods remain. When these pods are shaken, the ripe seeds inside rattle, hence the common name (4). The stems of this plant tend to be spotted with black, and the leaves have toothed edges (2). Six subspecies of yellow rattle have been described in Britain, however some populations do not ‘fit’ into any of these subspecies, and it is thought by some experts that the subspecies should be abandoned and given ‘variety’ status (3)(2).
Yellow rattle is hemi-parasitic on the roots of various grasses. It therefore requires grasses in order to survive (3). The flowers are present from May to August and the seeds become ripe from July to September (5). The flowers are typically pollinated by bumblebees, but if they are not pollinated they can self-fertilise (2).
Yellow rattle is found throughout Britain (3). Elsewhere it occurs in much of Europe with the exception of the Mediterranean. It is also known in southern Greenland, western Siberia, and Newfoundland (2).
For more on British native plants and for details of how to get involved in plant conservation visit the website of Plantlife, the wild plant charity: www.plantlife.org.uk
For more details on the subspecies of yellow rattle see: Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. and Dines, T.D. (2002) New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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