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.

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.