Yellow rattle ‘Springwatch’ 2010

Spring has finally arrived at last in our Norfolk meadows with the appearance of the first yellow rattle seedlings of spring 2010.


Seeds that were sown last autumn, or shaken from hay in summer, have spent the winter lying on the wet soil surface exposed to the frosts and snow. Rather than being an endurance test, as one might imagine, this is just the stimulus yellow rattle seeds require: after 3 or 4 months of prolonged chilling the seeds will be released from their enforced dormancy and set to germinate. The long awaited arrival of some warm spring sunshine provided the last ingredient needed for the new growth cycle to begin.

This year's yellow rattle emergence is 7-10 days later than last year. In good years seedlings can appear as early as late February. Interestingly last minute sowings around Christmas are lagging behind summer sown seed, but only by a few days.

The emerged seedlings, just a few millimeters across, will now need to grow quickly to grab space before surrounding grasses have a chance to close in and deny them light. Careful spring mowing or grazing whilst the yellow rattle plants are small can help. If successful, the young plants will soon attach themselves, via their roots, to nearby grasses and other plants to extract nutrients from them. Yellow rattle will flower in early summer and complete its life cycle when its seeds ‘rattle' out to fall back to the ground in July.

Posted on 14 March 2010,
Category: News