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Rhinanthus minor (yellow rattle)

The yellow rattle may look pretty and innocent - but it is a vampire at heart.
Rhinanthus minor in a field

Rhinanthus minor, pretty above the ground... but a thief at root level.

Species information

Scientific name: 

Rhinanthus minor L.

Common name: 

yellow rattle, hay rattle, cockscomb, rattle-basket

Conservation status: 

Rated as of Least Concern (LC).

Habitat: 

Grassland.

Key Uses: 

Creation of wildflower meadows.

Known hazards: 

Rhinanthus spp. are reputedly poisonous to livestock and are usually avoided by grazing animals. The seeds contain iridoids which used to be found as toxic contaminants in bread cereals.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Asteranae
Order: 
Lamiales
Family: 
Orobanchaceae
Genus: Rhinanthus

About this species

This pretty little annual sends out roots that grow into the roots of neighbouring grass plants, and steal nutrients (that is, food) from them. It will produce many tiny seeds that rattle around in the papery brown calyx – hence the common name – and it can spread itself year by year, weakening the poor, hard-working grasses that it grows among! But you can get rid of it easily: just cut the flowers before they can produce seed, and the yellow rattle will disappear from your meadow. But if you like variety in your field, keep the rattle; it will weaken the grass, giving other species more chance to survive.

Synonym: 

Alectorolophus minor

Genus: 
Rhinanthus

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