Yellow rattle (Rhianthus minor)

Yellow rattle in flower
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Yellow rattle fact file

Yellow rattle description

GenusRhianthus (1)

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).

Also known as
hay-rattle, rattle-basket.
Stem length: up to 50 cm (2)

Yellow rattle biology

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 range

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).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Yellow rattle habitat

This plant inhabits nutrient-poor grasslands, such as hay meadows, roadsides, waste ground, permanent pasture and the drier parts of fens (3).


Yellow rattle status

Not threatened (3).


Yellow rattle threats

Although not threatened at present, yellow rattle underwent a marked decline in Britain throughout the 20th century (3). This decline is thought to be due to changes in farming practices (6).


Yellow rattle conservation

Conservation action is not required for this species at present.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

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:
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.



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


Plant that obtains some nutrition from a host plant, but is able to survive independently as it possesses the pigment chlorophyll and a root system.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (January 2004):
  2. Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G., and Moore, D.M. (1987) Flora of the British Isles- 3rd Edition . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. and Dines, T.D. (2002) New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
  5. Plants for a Future (January 2004):
  6. (January 2004):

Image credit

Yellow rattle in flower  
Yellow rattle in flower

© Paul Hobson /

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