How many yellow wild flowers can you name? I could name a few of the ‘famous’ ones, buttercups, primroses, wild daffodils, and dandelions. I had not heard of Common Cow-wheat, Yellow Rocket, Goldenrod or Silverweed Potentilla (also known as honey underground). But, it was Yellow Rattle that a local wildflower enthusiast (Erica Sarney) and I spend most of our conversation talking about earlier this month.
Erica has been part of the creation of the wildflower meadow at the Crook O Lune, which is part of Community Pollinator Patches. There has been a lot of publicity about the decline of our bees and hoverflies, I recently read that since 1985 honey bee colonies have declined by 53%; that two British bumblebee species have become extinct and solitary bees have declined significantly across the UK.
Yellow flowers are significant as they are some of the earlier of our wildflowers to bloom. Primroses can begin as early as January and keep flowering all through spring. It is March though that yellow comes into its own, this is the start of dandelion season, there is coltsfoot, lesser celandine, and our villages are all yellow with daffodils. These early flowers provide food for our insects, they help get their spring off to a good start. If our insects have a good start, then our long distance spring travellers will be welcomed with an abundant feast in on their arrival in April and May.
But what of the Yellow Rattle? Yellow Rattle is one of our most important meadow wild flowers. It is a semi-parasitic plant feeding on the grass roots, weakening the plant and helping to create gaps giving new wild flowers a fighting chance to establish. It needs cold weather to set seed and flowers in May–June. Its name comes from the rattling sound the seeds make as you walk through a wildflower meadow in late summer, and apparently it is favourite food of cattle.
As you will know from a recent Parish Council blog post, they are considering changing the management of local verges to allow the native wild flowers in the seed bank to flourish and Yellow Rattle would be used to control the grass. So with the support of Erica and Lancaster City Council over the next season, Yellow Rattle will be introduced more widely to grass areas around the village. This being the first step in creating our own Melling pollinator patches. No patch is too small, after all pollinators are not very big, so with luck next spring when you walk through the village maybe you will think “and it was all yellow”.
If you are interested in finding out more please do get in touch with the Parish Council or myself.
Yellow, a song by Coldplay, 2000 Facebook, search for Community Pollinator Patches.
The Good Verge Guide by Plantlife: