Flower Glossaryflowers

Flower Glossary: Fritillaria Imperialis

by Grace Bonney

Design*Sponge Flower Glossary: Fritillaria Imperialis
The first time I saw a Fritillaria Imperialis for sale, I had no idea what it was. I was so used to associating Fritillaria with the dainty purple bells I’d see in shops each spring, but had no idea they were related to these giant showstoppers.

Commonly know as Kaiser’s Crown or Crown Imperial, Fritillaria Imperialis is, as its name suggests, a member of the genus Fritillaria. Each flowering plant can grow up to three feet height, producing wonderfully dramatic blooms that face downward, as if the flower head has been inverted. Native to Iran, the Himalayan foothills, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Fritillaria Imperialis can now be found in late spring in flower shops across the globe.

While their color (which ranges from orange and yellow to rich reds) is vibrant to behold, their scent leaves much to be desired. Botanists refer to their smell was ‘foxy’, but I find it to be a little too close to the smell of skunks. But their smell is a natural deterrent to rats, mice and other rodents so it does its job well. If you plan to use them in an arrangement or display them at home, be sure to warn recipients that the scent is normal- or keep them at a height or distance where the smell won’t be a factor. But for all their skunkiness, Fritillaria Imperialis really are a sight to see. They are dramatic, richly colored and look positively otherworldly when grouped en masse. So if you can get your hands on them, they’re definitely worth bringing home. xo, grace

Below is a section of Van Gogh’s Imperial Fritillaries in a Copper Vase. (1887. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France). I have always loved this painting and it seemed perfect to share this here today.


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  • Oh my gosh! Stinky flower! Years ago I ordered these from Holland for a wedding , had no idea that they were a big stank bomb and was too freaked out to use them. I find the smaller white versions don’t have that odiferous problem, they’re so lovely and very popular now.

  • Fritillaria Imperialis,
    Beautifull, every april” I have a lovely orange Fritillaria, showing its beauty.
    Always, a welcome of spring at our house.