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Spotted in Dane Valley Woods: Snake’s head fritillary

Snake's Head Fritillary

Snake’s head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) is a British flower which has become nationally scarce. The snake’s head fritillary is commonly found on meadows, explaining its population reduction due to habitat conversion of wildflower meadows into arable land or grassland for grazing. During our 10th year anniversary in 2013, Dane Valley Woods planted these bulbs and other native wildflowers in the hope to increase the diversity of flora within the woodlands and within a few months, they had flowered. We are hoping to see many popping up this year!

Snake’s head fritillaries are easily identifiable in spring by their bell shaped, drooping flowers and chequered patterns, often in purple, pink and occasionally white. Its scientific name Fritillaria comes from the Latin word for ‘dice box’, referencing the chequered patterns which make the flower so unique with meleagris translating to ‘spotted like a guinea fowl’. In folklore it is said that the flowers droop because they witnessed Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and hung their heads in sorrow.

The flowers of the snake’s head fritillaries are pollinated by insects, particularly bees, however, the flowers are hermaphrodites so the plant can self-fertilise to produce a clone of itself.

Did you know? Work at Kew has uncovered that Fritillaria meleagris has 15 time mores DNA than humans have and if its genomes were unravelled it would stretch 30 metres.


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