The yellow-rattle died and other stories…

One of the advantages of growing wildflowers in a pot by your front door is that you get to see them everyday when you leave and enter – observing how they grow is easy to do or, in this case, how they don’t grow.

My idea was to grow native grasses in my I-pot, but by sowing yellow-rattle next to them the grasses wouldn’t grow big and swamp all the other plants because the yellow-rattle attaches onto their roots and then leeches water and minerals from them.  Well, the yellow-rattle germinated and began to grow – soon having its seed leaves and a pair of true leaves.

 yellow rattle

And then…it grew no bigger and gradually yellowed and died. Of the seven seedlings, not one is left alive today.

dead yellow rattle

I thought they could only parasitize grasses, but it turns out that in one European study they latched onto up to 50 different species in 18 different families, 20% were even within Leguminosae (including white clover!). Yellow-rattle is selective about what it will parasitise but that selectivity is apparently not consistent between populations or between plants from different parts of the same population and what it does take from neighbouring plants depends on the nutrient status of the soil it is growing in.

My yellow rattle had a choice of three different grasses whose roots would all be within handy reach – quaking-grass, silver hair-grass, and meadow oat-grass – the yellow rattle seed I used evidently doesn’t like them and the downside of being a parasite is you die without a host on which to feed.

So, in other news, most of the plants in my pot have grown far too lush despite all being grown in soil-based low-nutrient seed compost with lots of added grit. A consequence of this has been vast amounts of greenfly around the base of the plants – I’m hoping something turns up to eat them soon.


There has been a flower gap after the Fritillaria uva-vulpis which would have been filled by the daisy, which sadly died…over-shadowed by fairy flax…but I think adding a cowslip may solve that problem next year. My harebell died too.

dead daisy

Grass vetchling seedlings have appeared, presumably from the soil in which some of the other plants were growing when I dug them up, as have some willowherb seedlings.


Verdict on The Intermingled Pot then is….visually so-so, but interesting so far.

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