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Meadowmat wildflower species: Hay rattle (aka yellow rattle)

Hay rattle (also known as Yellow Rattle)

Hay rattle (Latin name Rhinanthus minor) is an attractive, yellow wild flower with toothed leaves, whose papery seed pods rattle, hence the name.

small clump of yellow rattle flowers

A native species in many Northern European countries, hay rattle is one of the quintessential wild flowers found in fields and meadows during the summer months. In optimum conditions, hay rattle – sometimes called yellow rattle or corn rattle - will spread rapidly. This can be due to mechanical means, for example seeds being carried by farming machinery or within hay crops.

Hay rattle is  a favoured plant for people creating wildflower meadows; it is one of the fastest growing of all wild flowers, and will produce a colourful, lush meadow in next to no time. Hay rattle, which generally flowers from May to July, is a prize species for wildlife enthusiasts because of its strong growth properties, and because it promotes bio diversity in meadows and fields.

So while some farmers and gardeners dislike hay rattle due to its vigorous growth and the fact it is semi-parasitic (meaning it steals nutrients from other plants), it is the perfect choice if you want variety in your garden or meadow. This is because hay rattle stems the growth of aggressive grasses so that other plants and wild flowers can thrive, such as red campion, lady's bedstraw and common St John's wort; wild flowers named by the RHS as perfect pollinators, their nectar attracting butterflies and bees that in turn provide vital support for our fragile ecosystem.

Growing and harvesting Hay rattle’s large seeds allow the plant to produce strong seedlings that germinate very early in the year, giving plenty of opportunity for you to plant these seedlings and start the cycle for the next season. Alternatively, you can keep things simple and invest in a Meadowmat, a pre-grown wildflower meadow that's as easy to lay as lawn turf.

Download Meadowmat's free guide to creating a wildflower area

Meadowmat and organisations such as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and local Wildlife Trusts can provide further advice and tips about what and how to plant wild flowers, and their many benefits.

Traditional uses for Hay rattle

Hay rattle is very pretty and admired for its aesthetic qualities. However, it also does an excellent job of weakening and reducing aggressive grass growth, which often provides stiff competition for wild flowers in open lawns and meadows. By stemming this spread, other species have a chance to grow and thrive.

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