Bold and striking flowers of our floodplain meadows, snake's head fritillaries are one of the UK’s rarest wild flowers.
April is the perfect time of the year for taking in the blooms of our ancient fritillary meadows. Once more widepsread the nodding pink and white-chequered blooms of the snake’s head fritillary can now only be found in a handful of floodplain meadows in southern and central England. Sadly, most of these meadows have been lost to draining and farming, making fritillaries a very rare sight across the UK.
Here we recommend The Wildlife Trusts best protected nature reserves where these beautiful scarce flowers can be still found – visit the fritillaries in bloom during April to awe at their marvellous displays.
Clattinger Farm (Wiltshire Wildlife Trust)
A precious remnant of Britain’s hay meadows, Clattinger Farm is considered the finest remaining example of enclosed lowland grassland in the UK. A Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) the reserve is particularly important for its extremely rare hay meadow wildflowers including fritillaries.
Visit in late April to adore the fragile, nodding heads of the snake's head fritillary, and spot other treasures including the downy-fruited sedge, and national scarce burnt orchid.
Other interesting wild plants here include early purple and southern marsh orchids, tubular water-dropwort, adder’s tongue fern and great burnet.
Iffley Meadows (Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust)
Each April, Iffley Meadows plays host to a wonderful wildlife spectacle where you can enjoy Oxfordshire's iconic flower, the snake's head fritillary, in bloom in its natural surroundings.
Iffley Meadows - wet meadows crossed by old river channels with willow-lined ditches - contains a rich diversity of wildlife typical of old and unspoilt meadow land. In spring, the blooms of cuckooflower mark the start of a colourful sequence of wild flowers in the meadows. The orange-tip butterfly can be seen fluttering from flower to flower laying its eggs. Later, the yellow of buttercups and the reds and purples of great burnet and knapweed come to the fore.
Mickfield Meadow (Suffolk Wildlife Trust)
A stunning flower-rich hay meadow, Mickfield Meadow has never been sprayed or fertilised. As a result, it is host to abundant wildflowers, many of which are now scarce in Suffolk. The unusual mix of plants growing here is remarkable, with the site being one of four left in Suffolk where the beautiful snake’s head fritillary can still be found. Scattered among these nodding heads in the wetter parts of the meadow is the ragged-robin and meadowsweet. In the drier areas, look for the goldilocks buttercup and the low growing wood anemone.
Lugg Meadow (Herefordshire Wildlife Trust)
The great expanses of Upper and Lower Lugg Meadow are unique in Herefordshire, not just for their sheer size but also for being living survivors of a land tenure and farming economy system which has long since disappeared elsewhere. The two special plants of Lugg Meadow are undoubtedly the delicate and attractive fritillary and the nationally scarce narrow-leaved water dropwort. The fritillary population is slowing spreading here with numbers currently reaching over 1500.
Martin’s Meadow (Suffolk Wildlife Trust)
Composed of three meadows, Martin’s Meadow is among the few flower-rich hay meadows still left in Suffolk. Managed without spraying, draining and fertilisation, the meadow supports a wide range of wild flowers including the snake's head fritillary.
Visit in spring to enjoy superb displays of early-purple, green-winged and pyramidal orchids. Visit in summer, and the meadow will be transformed with the pink and purple bloom of meadow saffron. Most of the hedges enclosing the site here at least 100 years old and contain many different species of trees and shrubs, including field maple, hazel, hawthorn and spindle.
Fox Fritillary Meadow (Suffolk Wildlife Trust)
Fox Fritillary Meadow is an ancient floodplain and one of the largest of four remaining sites for the snake's-head fritillary in Suffolk. Visit between mid April to early May to awe at impressive displays of up to 300,000 nodding purple-chequered and white flower heads. Blooming alongside these are early meadow flowers including cowslip and cuckoo.
Visiting this meadow is only possible prior to arrangement only. Please call 01473890089 for details.
Camley Street Natural Park (London Wildlife Trust)
Two unique acres of wild green space right in the heart of London, this innovative and internationally acclaimed nature reserve on the banks of the Regent's Canal is a great place to spot wild fritillaries – a very rare sight in London. It is likely these were introduced after the reserve was created from an old coal yard back in 1984, but they are still worth enjoying. The reserve now provides natural habitat for birds, butterflies, amphibians and a rich variety of plant life and all next door to King's Cross and St Pancras stations!
Find out more
Read more on snake's head fritillaries on the Floodplain Meadows Partnership website: http://www.floodplainmeadows.org.uk/content/snakes-head-fritillaries
Read about the snake's head fritillary on the Plantlife website
The Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife and many other organisations are working to protect wildflowers and plants and to encourage landowners and farmers to manage sites sensitively and preserve these precious plants for future generations.