Over the last 3 years we have had gradually rising numbers of snakeshead fritillaries flowering in our Long Field. Last year the recent peak was over 500 in bloom all at once. Lots of you have come over and enjoyed them with our annual walks being a firm fixture in our calendar (last year was so popular we had to instigate a ticketing system!). I was very disappointed to not be able to do the walk this year, however even without C19 it would have been disappointing, as we only had 1 flower this year. Thats right 1. However do not despair. Species rich floodplain meadows are a dynamic assemblage of plants - and this gives resilience. We know from haymaking that each year is visibly different, in that some years its more grass dominated, some times its more knapweed and a few years ago it was vetch-tastic (litterally cones of tufted, common and meadow vetchling in colourful heaps). These changes in species success in a season is mainly down to water levels. The fritillary likes it damp, doesnt mind a flood, but basically hibernates if it is flooded for a long period. This field first flooded at the end of September 2019, in fact I monitor ground water levels at 3 stations across the field and it went from dry at 60cm down to flooded in less than 2 weeks. The floods stayed at various levels all the way until March, and were highest in February. It also dumped lots of silt and algae so I dont blame the fritillaries for having a year off - I think they picked the right one!
One interesting fact is that the fritillary bulb has glycosides with in it. This means it can lay dormant but alive for up to 5 years in a wet environment with out putting up a shoot.
However I did get a fritillary fix, I walked over the border to Gloucestershire and Elmlea Meadow which we cut for hay, and there I found 100.
Lets hope next year is better, come over for fritilaries, tea and cake then!
THE fritillary for 2020
Post flood in the worst patch
All wel at Elmlea