Snake's-head Fritillary

Fritillaria meleagris

  1. Wildlife
  2. Wildflowers
  3. Snake's-head Fritillary

About

It was not so long ago that the spring markets of Covent Garden were overflowing with the nodding, pink- and white-chequered blooms of Snake's-head Fritillaries. Handfuls picked from meadows beside the River Thames were taken to London by local children to be sold for a pretty penny or two. But today, the carpets of Snake's-head Fritillaries that once straddled our rivers and adorned our wet meadows have become a rare sight.

How to identify

Snake's-head Fritillaries are unmistakeable - look for their chequered purple, pink or even white bell-like flowers, nodding on thin stems in April and May. They have narrow, grey-green leaves that appear at the base of the plant and occasionally up the stem.

Where to find it

Found mainly in England.

Habitats

When to find it

  • April
  • May

How can people help

Once awash with wildflowers and alive with insects, our wet meadows have been drained, damaged and destroyed as a result of agricultural intensification; more than 95% of our wildflower meadows have been lost in recent years. Without care, those meadows that are left can quickly become overgrown, shading out delicate wildflowers such as Snake's-head Fritillaries. The Wildlife Trusts look after many meadow habitats using traditional methods, such as hay-cutting, reseeding and grazing, for the benefit of local wildlife. We are also working closely with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices in these areas. By volunteering for your local Wildlife Trust, you can help too.

Local information

Thousands of snake's-head fritillaries bloom each year in late April at Iffley Meadows. Careful management of the site by BBOWT and controlled grazing has seen the number of these flowers increase from a mere 500 in 1983 when BBOWT took over management of the reserve.

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Species information

Common name
Snake's-head Fritillary
Latin name
Fritillaria meleagris
Category
Wildflowers
Statistics
Height: up to 30cm
Conservation status
Classified as Vulnerable in Britain on the Red Data List.