Rattle, Yellowotanical: Rhinanthus crista-galli
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Synonyms: Cock's Comb. Yellow Rattle Grass. Pennygrass.
(Welsh) Crivell Melyn.
(Gaelic) Boden chloigin.
The Yellow Rattle, a near relative of the Red Rattle, also obtains its name from the fact that the seeds rattle in the husky capsules when ripe. This is an erect, somewhat rigid plant, common in cultivated land, composed of a single stem, about a foot high, smooth and more or less spotted with purple, bearing pairs of stalkless, wedge-shaped leaves, with deeply notched margins and conspicuous veins, and terminated by a loose spike of yellow, labiate flowers, in which the calyx is large and very inflated (flattened so that its side view is much larger than its end view), of an uncommon pale green in colour and contracting at the mouth, where it is divided into four equal teeth. The upper lip of the corolla is very convex and ordinarily has a purple spot upon it; the lower lip is divided into three segments, the middle one being the largest. The stamens, which rest closely under the upper lip, have curious anthers, covered with little, bristly hairs.
Culpepper and other old writers call this plant Rattle Grass, like the preceding species, but Gerard gives also the name of 'Pennygrass,' an allusion to the flattened, fairly circular outline of the capsules. The generic name, Rhinanthus, is derived from the two Greek words signifying nose and flower, from the projecting beak of the upper portion of the corolla. The specific name, crista-galli, means the crest or comb of a cock, because, according to Pliny, it has numerous leaves resembling a cock's comb. Parkinson, writing in 1640, also explains the name by saying the deeply-dented edges of the leaves 'resemble therein the crest or combe of a cocke,' but others have thought the name 'Coxcomb' refers rather to the notched calyx. In France it is called the 'Crête-de-coq.'
Both the Red Rattle and the Yellow Rattle are semi-parasites like the Eyebright, in similar manner extracting nourishment from the roots of the grasses among which they grow, the Yellow Rattle, however, to a more considerable degree than the others, impoverishing thereby the pastures in which it flourishes, and on the Continent it is often harmful to Rye crops, if not eradicated in time.
The Yellow Rattle was considered to have certain properties in common with Eyebright. Culpepper tells us that it 'is held to be good for those that are troubled with a cough or dimness of sight, if the herb being boiled with beans and some honey; put thereto be drunk or dropped into the eyes. The whole seed being put into the eyes draweth forth any skin, dimness or film from the sight without trouble or pain.'