Shake, rattle and roll

Flanders Moss NNR

Often nature provides the perfect solution to a conservation problem (after all it did a pretty good job at regulating itself before humans came along). One such solution is yellow rattle, otherwise known as the “meadow maker”, an annual flower that increases plant biodiversity wherever it grows. This architectural flower lends a very welcome helping hand in the creation of labour-intensive wildflower meadows.

It does this by suppressing the growth of meadow grasses thereby reducing competition from dominant grasses and making space for other plants to grow. The result is a grassland rich in different species.

Yellow rattle weakens other plants (particularly grasses) by drawing water and nutrients from them, a strategy known as partial- or hemi-parasitism. It still produces its own nutrients through photosynthesis but it can boost them by stealing more from other plants.

This property of yellow rattle makes it the perfect meadow-maker as it allows a variety of flowers to grow which are a great food source for pollinators. We sow yellow rattle in the wildflower meadow at Flanders Moss car park to do just that.

Since its creation 5 years ago, the meadow has really come on but it still requires a fair bit of maintenance to prevent dominant plants and grasses from taking over, so every summer yellow rattle is collected from a field at West Most Side farm and sown once the meadow has been cut later in the year. By harvesting the seeds ourselves instead of buying them we save money and ensure that the seeds we plant are a native subspecies.

Last week we went out to pick some yellow rattle in a downpour! We’ve laid out the soggy plants to dry and will go through them to collect the seeds later in the season.

In the fields, when their seed pods dry out the seeds inside rattle around, making a noise that indicates to the farmer that the hay is ready to be cut – giving the plant its name!

Whilst we were out there picking we bumped into an old friend – Catherine the Curlew – who was looking rather magnificent in amongst the fields of hay! Catherine, the giant wicker curlew, was built last year by the pupils of Wallace High School, with the help of expert willow weaver Kate Sankey, as part of the Dawn Chorus project – learn more about the project here.

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2 Responses to Shake, rattle and roll

  1. mark ryan says:

    Are you saying yellow rattle affects the grass more than the plants because there is more grass than plants? I only saw buttercups and clover. No fritillaries or cowslips.


    • The yellow rattle is semi parasitic on the grasses so it weakens the grass, reducing its growth so leaving more space for the flowering plants to thrive. The picture is taken of yellow rattle where it is collected in the donor site. The effect of the yellow rattle at the Flanders Moss recipient site has created space for looks of other flowering species to become established. Fritillaries are found on a different sort of grassland – flood plain meadows, cowslips flower in spring and have gone over a couple of months ago. Hope this helps.

      Liked by 1 person

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