Snake's head fritillaries

© Mike Dodd

Snake's head fritillaries

A number of threatened and rare plants also occur in floodplain meadows. Most well-known is the snake’s-head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris), a beautiful species found on a handful of meadows in southern and central England. Only a few sites in the UK are considered to hold wild populations, although many sites have had the plants introduced.

The UK’s largest population of these stunning wildflowers is found at North Meadow National Nature Reserve (Wiltshire). We undertake an annual count at the time of peak flowering in mid April every year. Along with Natural England and volunteers, we have been recording the change in the population of snake’s-head fritillary at North Meadow NNR, since the 1970s. This study, which uses fixed-point quadrats to sample the population of fritillaries has revealed a strong relationship between the presence of plants and flooding in the previous season. The study has also demonstrated that the species responds to extreme conditions with a period of dormancy and helped with the production of a paper on all aspects of snake’s-head fritillary ecology.

Alongside our annual fritillary count, volunteers are also recording bumblebee populations with the help of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at North Meadow and a nearby floodplain meadow called Clattinger Farm (part of the Lower Moor Farm complex owned by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust).

If you would like to join us for our annual snake’s-head fritillary count in 2024, please get in touch.


Snake's head fritillary flowers
Snake's head fritillary