Volunteers helped carry out the annual count of Oxfordshire’s county flower on the banks of the River Thames in Oxford.
The team of professional and amateur ecologists from Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) tallied up a whopping 43,349 snake’s-head fritillaries at their Iffley Meadows nature reserve on Tuesday (April 18). This compares to just 500 flowers on site when the charity started managing the rare floodplain meadow habitat off Donnington Bridge Road in 1983.
The plants will only keep flowering for a few more days, and the Trust urged locals to get down to the nature reserve and enjoy the rare spectacle.
BBOWT Ecologist Colin Williams, who was in charge of the count, said:“We are really happy with this figure – it shows that we’ve got a very healthy population of fritillaries at the site, which is also a great indicator that the habitat is doing well overall thanks to our decades of careful management. We'll continue managing this reserve as traditional hay meadow so that not only the fritillaries but all the other important plants and animals here will continue to flourish.
“These flowers will stay in bloom for another week or so, and we would absolutely urge people to come down and see them: they only grow in a few fields at the reserve, and they’re not directly on the banks of the river so you have to do a bit of hunting to find them but it’s worth the effort. Finally, a huge thank you to the volunteers who helped us at this year’s count - we couldn’t do what we do without the support of passionate nature lovers like you.”
Iffley Meadows is one of fewer than 30 sites in the country where these striking flowers bloom in the wild. When BBOWT took over management of Iffley Meadows in 1983 there were fewer than 500 fritillaries at the site. Under the Trust's management, this number has soared to more than 80,000 in some years.
The total number of flowers counted this year was slightly lower than in some recent years, but Mr Williams said it was within the normal annual fluctuation that one would expect.
He added:"Numbers vary each year due to flooding events of the previous 24 months, the weather just before and during the flowering season and the impact of browsing deer. We manage the meadows in the same way each year, with a July hay cut and aftermath grazing."
Iffley Meadows is one of more than 80 nature reserves managed by BBOWTacross the three counties. To find out more about Iffley and other local sites go to: bbowt.org.uk/nature-reserves