In Hungary, Fritillaria meleagris
is known as a species of riparian woodlands however it forms large populations on meadows appeared after woodland clearance too. We monitored one such population on the floodplain of the small river Zala in Western Hungary near Tüskeszentpéter. To explore the history of land use on this site we used the maps of Military Surveys of Hungary, aerial photographs and archive documents (1720–2016). The first written records of the settlement (Tüskeszentpéter) built in a meander of the river Zala are dated to 1301. By 1784, the studied area was covered by wet meadows and only small fragments of forests, as it could be seen on old maps. That time the main livelihood was animal husbandry which required a lot of hay to be stored for winter. These floodplain hay meadows were very productive. Between 1895 and 1930, after the regulation of river Zala flow most of meadows were transferred into arable fields. Small-scale farming almost disappeared by 1960s because of ‘collectivization’. Big hay-cut machinery started to be used and this way of land farming can be seen on the meadows nowadays too. Fritillary populations occur only in areas which have been continuously managed as hay meadows for 300 years. Over six years of observations (2012–2017) the number of annually flowering Fritillaria
individuals varied from 630 to 5314. As traditional animal husbandry is no longer economical in Hungary, the maintenance of these historic floodplain meadows depends on different nature conservation supports.