Fritillaria meleagris

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaLiliaceaeFritillariaFritillaria meleagris


A bulbous perennial herb of damp, sometimes winter-flooded, neutral grasslands, usually those managed for hay with aftermath grazing. It is frequently planted in other grassland habitats and sometimes becomes naturalised. Lowland.



World Distribution

European Temperate element.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Neutral grassland (includes coarse Arrhenatherum grassland)

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 8

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 4

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.3

Annual Precipitation (mm): 688

Height (cm): 30

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Bulbous geophyte



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 98

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.86

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Fritillaria meleagris L.


Status: scarce



This is a grassland plant which thrives best where the usual form of management is a hay cut followed by aftermath grazing. This enables plants which have all their leaves on the flowering stem, as does F. meleagris, to complete their life cycles. The fact that this species often occurs in grassland subjected to flooding may have more to do with the resultant past agricultural tendency to treat such land as a hay meadow than with any ecological dependence on flooding per se. Classic sites for F. meleagris are, or were, meadows adjacent to lowland rivers where the flora consists of twelve or more grasses, a few sedges and a wide range of herbs associated with damp loam soils. Associated species of note are Cardamine pratensis, Ophioglossum vulgatum, Sanguisorba officinalis, Silaum silaus and Thalictrum flavum.

F. meleagris is a perennial which flowers freely in the open but is inhibited by shade from dense scrub. Seed production is of the order of 100 seeds per capsule and germination is in the spring. Survival of the species is likely to be mainly by vegetative reproduction of the bulb. Colonisation of new sites is uncommon, if it occurs at all, possibly because of inhospitable grassland sites created by modern agricultural methods.

This species declined rapidly after 1940 following agricultural intensification by chemicals and mechanisation. Current threats are from gravel extraction but most major sites now have some form of protection.

F. meleagris is endemic to Europe, where it extends from the Alps and Yugoslavia northwards to Britain and Russia; it is also naturalised in Scandinavia. 

A detailed account of the ecology and population dynamics of this species in Sweden is given by Zhang (1983). For an account of its occurrence in England, see King & Wells (1993).



D. A. Wells

Atlas text references

Atlas (314c)
Gillam B
1993.  The Wiltshire Flora.
Harvey JH
1996.  Fritillary and martagon - wild or garden? Garden History. 24:30-38.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Oswald P [H ]
1992.  The Fritillary in Britain - a historical perspective. British Wildlife. 3:200-210.
Mabey R
1996.  Flora Britannica.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.