Snake’s head fritillaries

One of the country’s rarest native meadow flowers, wild populations of snake’s head fritillaries are now found in only a handful of meadows around the UK. We’re lucky to have one of those sites in our care at Wallingford Castle Meadows.

Late March is peak fritillary flowering season. Their delicate nodding blooms are a brilliant source of food for bumblebees, their main pollinator. And as a relatively early bloomer it’s often queen bees not long out of hibernation that you’ll see foraging for nectar.

Every March we carry out an annual count at Wallingford Castle Meadows. Whilst it’s likely this population by the pond is a Victorian introduction, it’s still important that we monitor them and make sure our conservation efforts are effective.

Fantastic fritillaries aren’t around for long, so do look out for them on your next spring walk.

On First Spotting a Snake’s Head Fritillary

A Poem by Isobel Dixon

You might have thought me crazed, crying out
and running, falling to my knees in the wet grass,
wildflower-honouring, amazed to see the purple
cross-hatched lanterns bobbing in the rain,
as if the watercoloured page by Rennie Mackintosh
had swelled with sap, unfolding from pale green
to mauve, and rising, real and multiple
among grape hyacinths and pheasant’s eye.

My first fritillaries: as wonderful to me as midnight
fox or unicorn.‎ So, after all – there is wonder still!
This Spring has me astir, brimming with gratitude‎
at life and being led ‎to unexpected wonderment,
and fearful too for us and these ‎rare shades,
too little marsh‎ left at the margins of clipped lives.
In my own, I’ve found the miraculous is small,
sometimes only barely tangible, no less a miracle.

Wallingford Castle Meadows

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