For local readers, three bits of information: 1) if, like me, you adore gentians (so blue!), Ian Christie (of the SRGC) is speaking to the Alpine Garden Club of BC tonight; 2) the Alpine Garden Club of BC has its fall sale this weekend; and 3) Treefest is also this weekend -- visit Riverview and walk the grounds of western Canada's oldest arboretum (and progenitor of UBC Botanical Garden)!
Thank you to Weekend Gardener of the UBC Botanical Garden forums for sharing today's photograph via this thread on the BPotD Submissions Forum. Yes, it was posted over 4 months ago, but I figure it is nearing spring for readers in the southern hemisphere, so it's timely for them!
As usual, the Germplasm Resources Information Network provides a list of common names and distribution for this species. Native to much of Europe, it is variously known as snakehead fritillary (see WG's first photograph on the link to the thread above), Guinea-hen-flower, oeuf de vanneau (egg of plover -- plover eggs for comparison) and gewöhnliche Schachblume (chess-flower?).
Fritillaria meleagris is a plant of damp grasslands and river meadows. Once more common in the wild than it is today, it is now listed as an endangered species in several European countries. Browsing through Google Scholar for Fritillaria meleagris, it seems that it is not only the conversion of grasslands to farmland that is responsible for the decline, but also long-term changes in the water regimes of soils (e.g., draining due to ditches). Human harvesting of the flowers has also been an issue, according to Paghat.
North Carolina State University Extension provides a cultural fact sheet on Fritillaria meleagris. I also enjoy viewing the illustrations in the Missouri BG rare books collection: snakehead fritillary.