What's in flower...
(Above) Yellow Rattle © Steve Bond
Yellow Rattle is one of the signature flowers of the Kingcombe hay meadows. It has a pretty yellow flower earlier in the season but at this stage the ‘fruits’ or seed pods have dried and literally rattle with seed.
One of the iconic sounds of summer at Kingcombe meadows is the dry rattling made by grasshoppers jumping ahead of you from seed head to seed head, shaking the ‘rattles’ as they take off and land.
Yellow Rattle is classified as ‘hemi-parasitic’, gaining some of its nutrients from the roots of course grasses, making it very popular amongst DWT Conservation officers as it helps us restore wild flower grasslands by suppressing coarse grasses, subsequently making space for more wild flowers to blossom.
For this same reason however, farmers trying to grow a good crop of hay have given yellow rattle the more plaintive name ‘Poverty’! The plant is commonly referred to as ‘Rattlebags’ or ‘Shacklebags’ in the hills of the Dorset countryside.
As Yellow Rattle flowers annually, it needs to set seed every year- something it has a better chance of doing in our hay meadows as opposed to in grazed pasture (as long as the hay cut is left until the yellow rattle has gone to seed in mid-July). As with other wild flowers, ‘tedding’ the hay flicking it out several times to help dry the crop helps shake the seeds out onto the ground as well as distributing it nice and widely.