You may have noticed that there is a rather odd area of grass roped off around the pond area outside the Biology labs. Go and look more closely and you will be surprised. There is a plethora of beautiful flowers looking like the heads of snakes. In fact it is one of the only examples of a chequer board pattern in biology. These flowers are called snake’s head fritillaries also known as the chess flower, frog-cup or leper lily. The latter name was because of their likeness to the bell which used to be carried around by lepers. About 5 years ago, 20 bulbs were planted in this marshy area by the pond and a current count reveals 250 which just illustrates the power of reproduction.
Fritillaries were common in Oxford although were nearly wiped out due to an event called ‘Fritillary Sunday’. Children picked the flowers for their mothers and grandmothers and decimated the indigenous population. Fortunately the meadows of Magdalen College and Port Meadow are full of the fritillaries again. Do go and have a look this Easter.