Snake's Head Fritillary Count 2023

On Friday 19th April, Dr Tim King and Dr Judy Webb (along with several knowledgeable and willing volunteers) carried out the 2023 Snake's Head Fritillary count at Hinksey Meadow. 

The Snake’s Head Fritillary is Oxfordshire’s County flower and is characteristic of traditionally managed flood meadows. They have chequered purple and pink bell-like flowers hanging from thin stems and narrow leaves at the base of the plant. They are nationally rare and only 20 sites in the UK remain in old flood meadows nationally.  We are fortunate to have a significant amount at Hinksey Meadow and a smaller amount at Heyford Meadow, where they bloom alongside the boardwalk.

Fritillary and ‘Fritillaria’ come from a Latin origin ‘fritillus’ which means ‘dice-box’ as the markings are similar to a chequer board. An old country belief about snakeshead fritillary was that it followed the path of the Romans, springing up wherever their footsteps had fallen.

Tim and Judy are pleased to report the number of flowers this year is consistent with recent years, despite fluctuations in flooding causing more staggered flowering. They counted 307 flowers (slightly less than the 360 counted in 2022, but in line with the 10-year average of 323) and 351 vegetative plants (up from 257 in 2022). Non-flowering adult plants (vegetative plants) are part of the fritillary life cycle and these develop for 3-8 years, with the number of leaves increasing gradually from 3 to 6 arranged along the stem. OPT manages Hinksey Meadow in a traditional manner with hay cut in July, followed by aftermath grazing by cattle and the results indicate that this management continues to be successful.

At Heyford Meadow, our loyal volunteer Richard Queralt has been taking care of the fritillaries as sadly for the last two years the flowers were eaten by the muntjac, who also enjoy the meadow, which meant the seeds weren't able to disperse. Richard has protected the flowers this year and counted 76 in total; with the total ranging from around 30 to 80 in the past.

We're grateful to our fantastic volunteers for their interest and time spent helping us look after our green spaces. 

To learn more about the Snake's Head Fritillary and it's lifecycle click here.