Spring’s on the way…

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Spring’s on the way…

…maybe, and it might not be too early to pocket a few relatively unusual things to look out for over the next few months.  I’ve picked out fritillaries for starters, mainly because we’ll have some Snake’s-head fritillaries coming up in the university’s Old Quadrangle when things warm up.  Later, when it gets to be out-and-about time, there are some fairly unusual trees dotted around south Manchester to watch out for on future Herbology blogs.  Our Grindon Herbarium specimens, illustrations and reference material yield a number of species in addition to the Snake’s-head Fritillary and illustrations of many more.

Fritillaria sp., 178/139

The International Plant Names Index (IPNI) yields 558 taxonomic records for fritillaria, although this is an exhaustive list of names and no doubt includes many duplications.  The RHS says,

“This is a genus of approximately 100 species of bulbous perennials. They are distributed throughout the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, particularly the Mediterranean, Asia and North America. They occupy a range of habitats from woodland to open meadows and high screes.

“The majority bloom in spring, with flowers that are generally bell-shaped and pendant. The leaves are usually linear or lance-shaped. The name comes from the Latin word fritillus, a dicebox, from the spotted markings on the flowers of F. meleagris, which are suggestive of a dice-board.

“Fritillaria meleagris

“The name meleagris means ‘spotted like a guinea fowl’. It is found growing naturally from southern England to western Russia. This species is suitable for rock gardens, raised beds or woodland gardens. F. meleagris var. unicolor subvar. alba has white flowers. F. meleagris var. unicolour subvar. alba ’Aphrodite’ has white petals with green veining.”

The snake’s-head fritillary “…is native to Europe, but in many places, including France, Slovenia and Romania it is an endangered species that is

rarely found in the wild, but is common in horticulturists’ gardens. In Croatia the flower is known as Kockavica and is part of the country’s national symbol. It is the only species of Fritillary native to Britain, growing in traditional grass meadows. Due to changing land usage, it is now quite rare in the wild. The Meadow of Magdalen College, Oxford, the village of Ducklington,

Oxfordshire (which holds a Fritillary Sunday festival), and the North Meadow National Nature Reserve, Wiltshire are some of the best locations to view this flower.” – Wikipedia

Fritillaria meleagris, W. Curtis, Flora Londinensis (1777), t.20 (above left)

There is a colony of them under the trees in the NE part of the Old Quadrangle of the University of Manchester.  We planted some bulbs at home last autumn, and hope to see some sprouting in our own garden.

Fritillaria verticillata, C. F. von Ledebour, Icones Plantarum Rossicam (1829), t.2

Fritillaria meleagris specimen, and illustration from O. W. Thome, Flora von Deutschland (1886), t.119

Fritillaria pudica, The Garden xiii 598, 1878

– Daniel King

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