Isn't this just the most ravishingly elegant flower?
And to think that it is quite probably native too. Wow!
It is the Snake's-head Fritillary which, even if it isn't native, was certainly growing in England's wet meadows by the 16th Century, and was once a widespread sight.
Nowadays, it is a real rarity, found in just a few special hay meadows, mainly along the M4 corridor and in Suffolk, with 80% of the population at North Meadow in Wiltshire.
But it is a plant that can be grown in many gardens too, and has the wildlife bonus that it is pollinated by bumblebees, who happily scramble up inside the nodding heads, such as this Fritillary that I photographed in a garden in East Sussex with attendant Red-tailed Bumblebee:
The Fritillary's flowering season is just coming to an end now, but, if you fancy creating your own mini meadow of snakes for the future, write yourself a reminder to buy bulbs in autumn.
They will do ok in a damp, sunny flower border with plenty of humus, but they do best in their own mini meadow. Plant them deep, at least six inches down. Again, damp soils will work best, but they can cope with chalky soils. The main thing is your mowing regime.
Your best bet is to do as they do at North Meadow - don't cut between February and July. This allows the plants to set seed, and all the goodness to go into the bulb. Don't fertilise either - the grass will outcompete these beauties.
Then from mid July cut for the rest of the season as you wish, which is the gardener's way of bringing in a herd of cows!
And, with a bit of luck, you could be admiring your little field of chequered lanterns next spring.
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