3 reasons why the Fritillaria meleagris is like a panda

by zoe | 05.05.2014 | fritillaria , meleagris | 0 comments | Rating: 1 votes

Fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris

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Our plant of the week, fritillaria meleagris (also known as snake’s head fritillary, guinea flower or chequer lily) is a striking wild flower native to Britain. But who would have thought that this small, purple Spring flower would have so much in common with a 160kg giant panda? Here are three reasons why:

  1. It has distinctive markings

Just as a giant panda is easily recognised by the distinctive black patches on its ears, eyes and around its body, the bell-shaped flowers of fritillaria meleagris have a distinctive delicate chequerboard pattern in shades of purple. This spotted marking led to its name, from the Latin word ‘fritillus’ for dicebox, and ‘meleagris’ meaning spotted like a guinea fowl.

  1. It’s becoming endangered in the wild.

Sadly, just like pandas, the sight of the fritillaria meleagris is becoming an infrequent sight in the wild. This is primarily due to the fact that less than 5% of their natural habitat, wildflower meadows, now remains in the UK. A survey in the Peak District suggested that 75% of flower-rich meadows known to exist in the 1980s had been lost or degraded by the mid-1990s. It’s estimated that only 1,000 hectares remain in England, and 100 hectares in Scotland.

  1. It divides opinion

Like pandas, who are viewed with a range of opinions from being a graceful and intelligent creature to an evolutionary mistake, the fritillaria meleagris also divides opinion. Whilst the Royal Horticultural Society calls it ‘one of the most exquisite jewels in the treasure house of British wild flowers,’ Vita Sackville-West, a notorious gardener who created the Sissinghurst Castle Garden, called it ‘a sinister little flower, in the mournful colour of decay.’

If you agree with the RHS, you can easily buy spring bulbs for the garden in a variety of cultivars. Consider mixing the purple chequered version with the white-flowered unicolor subvariety.

Written by zoe

I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree - Joyce Kilmer (1913)

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