Fritillary meleagris

Fritillary meleagris

Snakeshead fritillary


29.7 x 42cm

Watercolour and graphite on Fabriano Artistico extra white cotton rag 600 gsm

Artist's collection

Fritillaria meleagris comes from Eurasia and is in the lily family. Its common names include snake's head fritillary or chess flower. The name Fritillaria comes from the Latin fritillus meaning dice-box, possibly referring to the chequered pattern on the flowers, although this derivation has been disputed. The name meleagris means "spotted like a guineafowl". The common name "snake's head" probably refers to the somewhat snakelike appearance of the nodding flower heads on their long stems.

Vita Sackville-West called it "a sinister little flower, in the mournful colour of decay".

The flower has a chequered pattern in shades of purple, or is sometimes pure white. It flowers from March to May and grows between 15–40 cm (6–16 in) in height.

The plant has a button-shaped bulb, about 2 cm in diameter, containing poisonous alkaloids. It grows in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows at altitudes up to 800 m (2,625 ft).