Fritillaria meleagris has more aliases than any criminal: snake’s head fritillary, checkered daffodil, chess flower, frog-cup, guineahen flower, leper lily (really want one of those), lazurus bell and checkered lily. By whatever name you want to use, Fritillary meleagris is a little sweetie of a springtime bulb, 8-10″ high dangly bells in purple and white tweed. or less appealingly to me, all white.
The fritillaria are a large clan but I usually only run across 3 species. The charming little guineahen flower and two much more statuesque relatives – F. persica and F. imperialis.
Fritillaria persica is a deep, dusky purple and if not sited carefully will just fade into the background like a shadow. Some of these fritillaria are so dark and somber that they probably fall into the “black” flower category but generally speaking they are a subdued and stately plum. Plants are 2-3′ tall.
Fritillaria imperialis or crown imperial is indeed tall and imposing enough to be considered regal but that messy topknot definitely doesn’t qualify as a crown. It’s also said to have a skunky smell which would certainly disqualify it for royal status in my book but I can’t confirm this odor having never turned up one its bells to give it the sniff test. F. imperialis comes in yellow, orange and red, reaching 2-3′.
All 3 fritillaries are planted in the fall to bloom in spring. They like sun and rich but well-drained soil (what plant doesn’t?) and as with other spring blooming bulbs, the fritillaries are summer dormant.