Snake’s head fritillaries

The Land
And then I came to a field where the springing grass
Was dulled by the hanging cups of fritillaries,
Sullen and foreign-looking, the snaky flower,
Scarfed in dull purple, like Egyptian girls
Camping among the furze, staining the waste
With foreign colour, sulky-dark and quaint,
Dangerous too, as a girl might sidle up,
An Egyptian girl, with an ancient snaring spell,
Throwing a net, soft round the limbs and heart,
Captivity soft and abhorrent, a close-meshed net,
—See the square web on the murrey flesh of the flower—
Holding her captive close with her bare brown arms.
Close to her little breast beneath the silk,
A gipsy Judith, witch of a ragged tent,
And I shrank from the English field of fritillaries
Before it should be too late, before I forgot
The cherry white in the woods, and the curdled clouds,
And the lapwings crying free above the plough.
Vita Sackville-West, 1926

Iffley Meadow, April 2019



Magdalen College, Addison’s Walk, April 2023



The snake’s-head fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris. Its common names include snake’s head fritillary, snake’s head (the original English name), chess flower, frog-cup, guinea-hen flower, guinea flower, leper lily (because its shape resembled the bell once carried by lepers), Lazarus bell, chequered lily, chequered daffodil, drooping tulip or, in the British Isles, simply fritillary. The plant is a bulbous perennial native to the flood river plains of Europe where it grows in abundance.[source]


Magdalen College, Fellows’ Garden, April 2023

Background bed of naturalised Mediterranean Anemone blanda,






Across the road in the Botanic Gardens, Fritillaria michailovskyi is a species of flowering plant in the lily family Liliaceae, native to mountainous areas of northeastern Turkey. It is a bulbous perennial growing to 10–20 cm (4–8 in) tall, with narrow strap-shaped leaves and nodding umbels of distinctive, pendent, bell-shaped maroon flowers with yellow tips in spring


Snakeshead Fritillaries
…When light slants before the sunset, this is
The proper time to watch fritillaries.
They entered creeping; you go on your knees,
The flowers level with your eyes,
And catch the dapple of sunlight through the petals…
Anne Ridler (1912 – 2001)

One reply on “Snake’s head fritillaries”

Glad I didn’t walk on Thursday; very impressed indeed with your glorious pictures of fritillaries and the accompanying poems , David, thank you.

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