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Fritillary

(Fritillaria meleagris )

Fritillary © Bob Gibbons

Fritillary © Bob Gibbons


"Sullen and foreign-looking, the snaky flower,
Scarfed in dull purple, like Egyptian girls..."

- Vita Sackville-West, "The Land"


Description

Serpentine and glamorous, this dark purple (and sometimes white) wildflower is also known as the "Snake's-head".

Where it grows

Wet meadows, particularly traditional hay meadows that often flooded in winter months.

Best time to see

April and May.

Cultural info

  • It is the County Flower of Oxfordshire.
  • In the Language of Flowers it symbolises persecution.

How's it doing?

Once thousands filled flooded hay meadows across middle and southern England. However, modern agricultural practices - particularly draining land in order to grow crops - has led to a sharp decline.

3 things you may not know

  • Fritillaries were only offically recorded growing in the wild in 1736, so there is some debate as to whether they are native or not. 
  • Some of the best-known fritillary fields are in Oxfordshire, along the flood-meadows of the Thames including Magdalen Meadow in the heart of the university city.
  • Every year Ducklington church in Oxfordshire holds a 'Fritillary Sunday' when the public can walk around a field full of this wildflower.

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