Iberian Fritillary - Fritillaria lusitanica
by Tony Hall
A lovely little plant that I always look forward to finding while out botanising, particularly in the mountains. However, considering that it can be found in all 8 provinces of Andalucía, it can sometimes be quite elusive.
Fritillaria is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae) and is a bulbous perennial with a flowering stem growing up to around 30 cm tall, sometimes a little taller. The leaves and stems are a glaucous grey-green and somewhat fleshy. The long, pointed, strap-like leaves (usually between five and seven), grow alternately along the stem, stopping short of the nodding flower.
The pretty bell-shaped flowers are brownish-purple and green, with faint chequering patterns on the petals. The flower is most commonly produced singly on each stem, but occasionally up to three can be found on a single plant.
These fritillarias usually tuck themselves away amongst other low growing scrub, particularly in rocky areas, and so are not always easy to spot. But you can also find them more easily in open, grassy woodland.
Flowering time is from late February to June depending on the altitude: the higher, the later you will find them in flower.
Tony Hall, Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, specialising in the plants of Andalucía.