Reddish Vale Country Park


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Snake's Head


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The Snake's head fritillary has a chequered reddish-brown, purple, white and grey colouration, sometimes mostly white. It flowers from March to May and grows between 15 and 40 cm in height. It has a round bulb, about 2 cm in diameter which contains poisonous alkaloids.


This plant can be found growing in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows. It can be found at altitudes up to 800 metres.

It is native to Europe, but in many places, including France, Slovenia and Romania it is an endangered species that is rarely found in the wild, but is common in horticulturists' gardens. It is the only species of Fritillary native to Great Britain, growing in traditional grass meadows. Due to changing land usage, it is now quite rare in the wild.

In 2002 it was chosen as the County flower of Oxfordshire following a poll by the wild flora conservation charity.

The Fritillaria are yet more plants which were growing near Christ's crucifixion leading them to hang their heads in sorrow which they still do today.

Fritillaria  meleagris is associated with deceit and Vita Sackville-West declared it to be "a sinister little flower, in the mournful colour of decay."

Also Known as, Checkered Daffodil, Chess Flower, Frog-cup, Guinea-hen Flower, Leper Lily (Leper lily refers to the similarity between the shape of the flower and the bells carried by lepers. This may explain its sinister reputation), Snake's Head (the original English name).