Fritillary, Common

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Fritillary, Common

otanical: Fritillaria Meleagris (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae
Synonyms: Lilium variegatum. Chequered Daffodil. Narcissus Caparonius. Turkey Hen. Ginny Flower.

Fritillaria Meleagris (Linn.), the Snake's Head Fritillary, is a native of Great Britain, found in meadows and pastures in the southern and eastern counties of England, chiefly in Oxfordshire. It is not common and does not occur farther north than Norfolk, or farther west than Somerset.

It has a tiny, solid bulb, not larger than a good-sized black currant, with two or three long, narrow leaves, on a stem about a foot high, which bears a single, drooping flower of a dull red colour, marked curiously with pink and dark purple, in quaint squares and blotches. The petals are only overlapping and not joined together in any way, although the flowers look bell-like. Though the open flower is pendulous the bud stands erect, and so does the capsule. The plant is in bloom in April and May, in mild seasons in March.

The botanical name, meleagris, is derived from a Greek term applied to a guinea-hen, and many of the popular English names have a similar allusion to the markings of the flower, viz. Guinea-hen flower, Turkey-hen flower, Pheasant Lily, Leopards Lily, Chequered Lily, Chequered Daffodil and Lazarus Bell.

Bees visit the flower for the nectar secreted largely at the base of the perianth.

Many garden varieties are now cultivated. The best mode of propagation is by offsets, but also by seed, which ripens readily. Rabbits are very fond of this plant and will destroy it wholesale.

The bulb is poisonous and very distasteful to the palate and is said to have no medicinal value, though from its presence on the elaborate allegorical frontispiece of the old Herbal of Clusius, Rariorum Plantarum Historia, published in 1601, it bore at that time a reputation as a herb of healing.