This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
The affinity of this genus is mainly with Lilium itself, differing however in having a trifid style and six glands within and at the base of the perianth; hence the name, from the Latin fritillus, a dice-box. They are bulbous herbs with leafy stems and drooping axillary or terminal bell-shaped flowers. All are natives of the northern hemisphere, chiefly European and Asiatic, a few extending to North America.
1. F. imperialis. Crown Imperial (fig. 245). - This is supposed to be of Turkish or Persian origin. It is one of the largest of the genus, having a leafy stem a yard or more high surmounted with a tuft of leaves or bracts, around and beneath which the flowers are disposed in a whorl. The flowers are about the size of ordinary Tulips, and vary in colour from yellow to crimson. It blooms in April, and is a very showy plant for mixed borders and among dwarf shrubs.
Fig. 245. Fritillaria imperialis. (About 1/6 nat. size.)
F. Persica is of the same habit with dull purple flowers. Another group has solitary terminal flowers, and to this belongs the Snake's-head, F. Meledgris, a native of England, but now rarely seen in a wild state. This species is about a foot high, with 3 or 4 lanceolate leaves and reddish flowers streaked or spotted with purple, but varying from white (F. praeox of gardens) and yellow to dark purple. Several other species are occasionally seen, but with nothing particular to recommend them for a small garden: F. Pyrenaica, dark purple, flowering in June; F. latifolia, red, May - from the Caucasus; F. Kam-tchatkensis and F. pallidiflora, from Siberia.