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Fritillaria meleagris (snake’s head fritillary)

Snake's head fritillary has stunning, chequer-patterned flowers, and has become quite rare in the wild.
Snake's head fritillary at Kew Gardens

Fritillaria meleagris at Kew

Species information

Scientific name: 

Fritillaria meleagris L.

Common name: 

snake’s head fritillary, guinea-hen flower, chequer lily, checkered daffodil, chess flower, leper lily, Lazarus bells

Conservation status: 

See below.

Habitat: 

From open woods and grassy places, usually on floodplains, to alpine pastures.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental.

Known hazards: 

The bulb is poisonous.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Lilianae
Order: 
Liliales
Family: 
Liliaceae
Genus: Fritillaria

About this species

Fritillaria meleagris was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The generic name Fritillaria comes from the Latin word fritillus, meaning dice box (which were formerly chequered), in reference to the chequered markings on the flowers. The specific epithet meleagris likens it to a 'spotted guinea fowl'. Fritillaria meleagris is commonly found in damp grassland and meadows subject to winter flooding. A reduction of the habitats favoured by snake’s head fritillary (for example, due to the conversion of grassland to arable use, and by ‘improving’ grassland through fertilisation) has resulted in the species becoming infrequent in the wild. The native status of F. meleagris in Britain has been the subject of much debate. It was first recorded in the wild there only in 1736 and it has therefore been suggested that it is likely to be a neophyte (recently introduced species).

Synonym: 


Genus: 
Fritillaria

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