Fritillaria meleagris, commonly called snakes head lily or (as I prefer) checkerboard lily is an exquisite spring blooming member of the family Liliaceae. A bulbous perennial native to Europe, it can be found in the wild anywhere between southern England and western Russia wherever conditions suit it.
In late March or early April, depending on the weather, these lovely purple and mauve checked blooms elbow their way up, jostling each other for space to hang their nodding heads. Occasionally a white bloom will emerge from the purple crowd, like a ghostly cousin.
Apparently, conditions suit it quite well around here. I planted a few bulbs several years ago under my sourwood (oxydendron arboreum) tree, which was at the time growing in an old oak half-barrel. When we moved to our new home I planted the sourwood and it`s hitchhiking checkerboard lilies in the front garden, as it was supposed to be deer resistant. It turns out that deer don`t mind sourwood leaves and the tree is struggling to gain any size as the beautiful vermin prune it vigorously every summer, but the fritillaries are never nibbled, and are spreading quite happily!
In fact, a couple of years ago one sprung up in the backyard, under my smokebush (cotinus coggygria) and now IT is multiplying. And a few more are popping up in random spots around the yard. They must be spreading by seed because I haven`t moved any bulbs around. I`m just starting to worry that I might have a thug on my hands, but such a beautiful thug!