Nature Notes # 18 (A Snake in the Grass)

Nature Notes # 18

Snakes-head Fritillary Flower at Runcorn Roundabout, Bill Morton.

If you are out and about in Runcorn over the next few weeks check out the roundabout turn off for Halton Hospital. If all roundabouts were like this then driving to and from work would be a pleasure because this one in Runcorn is covered in a carpet of delicate Snake’s Head Fritillary flowers.

I don’t know their history but they have been around for a few years now and add an imaginative splash of colour to a drive in Runcorn and worthy of a detour…but as always be careful whilst driving around them.

Southern Expressway A533 Hallwood link Road Roundabout, Runcorn.

.Latin name: Fritillaria meleagris

Size: Grows to a height of around 40cms.

Distribution: Found mainly in the south and east of England, especially Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.

Flowering months: April to May

Habitat: Meadows, pastures and open woods.

Special features: The Snake’s Head Fritillary, is a native of the U.K., found in meadows and pastures in the southern and eastern counties of England, mainly in Oxfordshire.

Sometimes called the ‘Checkered Lily’, ‘Chequered Daffodil’, ‘Lazarus Bell’ and ‘Leper Lily’, referring to the bell shape of the flowers, similar to the bells carried by lepers in medieval times.

Snake’s head fritillaries used to be more common, but with ground drained for agriculture, gravel extraction and development, the wild colonies are now few and far between.

None of the other fritillaria genus can match this native wildflower for it’s bizarre chequered pattern which really does have a reptilian look about it. They appear mostly in shades of purple overlaying pale silvery scales.

Click for a better viewSome are coloured creamy-white, but when the light shines through them you notice that even these ones have a pale chequered watermark.

Click for a better viewLook out for rare double-headed specimens which have two flowers growing from one stem.

For more of the same for other UK wildlife check this site out.  http://www.uksafari.com

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