1. Family: Orobanchaceae Vent.
    1. Genus: Rhinanthus L.
      1. Rhinanthus minor L.

        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.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    The yellow rattle may look pretty and innocent - but it is a vampire at heart.

    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.

    Species Profile

    Geography and distribution

    Found in Europe, Russia, western Siberia, northern USA and Canada.

    Description

    An annual herb, 15–50 cm tall, with roots that penetrate the roots of other plants. The toothed leaves are borne opposite each other on the stem. The flowers are borne above the leaves, and are small and yellow, just peeping out of the inflated green calyx. The calyx turns brown in fruit, and holds the rounded capsule in which the seeds rattle about – hence the common name. Yellow rattle flowers in summer and is pollinated by bumblebees; if that fails, it can fertilize itself. Several varieties have been described, but are now all thought to be part of a single, variable species.

    Threats and conservation

    Rhinanthus minoris a widespread species, and is currently not under threat. Changes in farming practice will influence this plant; you will not find many in ‘improved grassland’, but in nutrient-poor, low-lying fields, yellow rattle can be very common.

    The conservation of a parasite may not immediately strike people as important. However, recent studies on the impact of R. minor show that annual parasitic plants can play an important role in maintaining species diversity within habitats through differential growth suppression effects and enhanced soil nutrient recycling.

    Uses

    Yellow rattle is hemi-parasitic on grasses, that is, it can survive independently – but it grows best when drawing some nutrition from the grass roots its roots penetrate. Farmers used to dislike it, as it weakens grass, and it was seen as an indicator of rather poor grassland. But for this very reason it is now used when trying to turn grassland into wildflower meadows. This is done by sowing yellow rattle seeds in the grass. Because they steal food from their neighbours, yellow rattle seedlings can grow very quickly in the spring and also slow the growth of the neighbouring grass plants, so other plants have more chance to survive.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Description of seeds:Average 1,000 seed weight = 2.51 gNumber of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank:12Seed storage behaviour:Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive drying without significant reduction in their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)Germination testing:100% germination (germination medium = 1% agar; germination conditions = 6°C, 12/12); 100% germination (pre-sowing treatments = imbibed on 1% agar for 56 days at 2°C; germination medium = 1% agar; germination conditions = 6°C, 12/12)

    Wildflower meadow restoration

    Yellow rattle seeds were sown alongside Kew’sMillennium Seed Bank atWakehurst in the summer of 2009, as part of work to restore wildflower meadows. The seeds need a long cold period to germinate, and the harsh winter provided the perfect conditions for the plant to flourish and there is now an abundance of the delicate yellow flower, along with other wildflowers such as ox-eye daisy.

    Andy Jackson, head of Wakehurst, said: 'The plant is called the yellow rattle because the seeds are held very loosely in a papery cup, and when they mature – which we expect to be around mid-July – they actually rattle'. He added: 'The irises and the yellow rattle are just two of the huge variety of different flowers which will be providing a wealth of colour and natural beauty at Wakehurst this summer'.

    Yellow rattle at Kew

    Wildflowers, including yellow rattle, can be seen growing alongside Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst in the Loder Valley.

    Distribution
    Canada, USA
    Ecology
    Grassland.
    Conservation
    Rated as of Least Concern (LC).
    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.

    [KSP]
    Use
    Creation of wildflower meadows.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    Albania, Altay, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Central European Rus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, Finland, France, Føroyar, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Krym, Netherlands, New Mexico, North European Russi, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South European Russi, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia

    Common Names

    English
    Yellow rattle

    Rhinanthus minor L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Cope, T.A. [RBG 393], United Kingdom K000914380

    First published in Amoen. Acad. 3: 54 (1756)

    Accepted in:

    • [2] (2010) Turczaninowia 13(1): 19-102
    • [8] Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1972) Flora Europaea 3: 1-370. Cambridge University Press.

    Literature

    • [1] (2012) Flora Neomexicana , ed. 2, 1: 1-599. Range Science Herbarium, Las Cruces, New Mexico.
    • [3] Stace, C.A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press.
    • [4] Bardgett, R.D. et al. (2006). Parasitic plants indirectly regulate below-ground properties in grassland ecosystems. Nature 439: 969-972.
    • [5] Cameron, D.D., Hwangbo, J.K., Keith, A.M., Geniez, J.M., Kraushaar, D., Rowntree, J. & Seel, W.E. (2005). Interactions between the hemiparasitic angiosperm Rhinanthus minor and its hosts: from the cell to the ecosystem. Folia Geobotanica 40: 217-229.
    • [6] Frohne, D. & Pfänder, H.J. (2004). Poisonous plants: a handbook for doctors, pharmacists, toxicologists, biologists and veterinarians. 2nd ed. Manson, London.
    • [7] Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1992). The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening. Vol. 4 (R to Z). Macmillan Press Ltd., London.
    • [9] Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1972) Flora Europaea 3: 1-370. Cambridge University Press.

    Sources

    International Plant Names Index
    The International Plant Names Index (2016). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org
    [A] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [C]

    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families(2016). Published on the Internet http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    [D] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [E] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index and World Checkist of Selected Plant Families. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0