Gloriosa (genus)

Gloriosa is a genus of five or six species in the plant family Colchicaceae, from tropical Africa and Asia. They are tender, tuberous rooted deciduous perennials, adapted to summer rainfall with a dormant dry season.

Gloriosa climb or scramble over other plants with the aid of tendrils at the ends of their leaves and can reach 3 meters in height. They have showy flowers, distinctive because of their pronouncedly reflexed petals, like a Turk’s cap lily, ranging in colour from a greenish-yellow through yellow, orange, red and sometimes even a deep pinkish-red. All parts of the plant contain colchicine and related alkaloids and are therefore dangerously toxic if ingested, especially the tubers; contact with the stems and leaves can cause skin irritation. Various preparations of the plant are also used in traditional medicines for a variety of complaints in both Africa and India.

G. superba is the national flower of Zimbabwe, and was the national flower of Rhodesia.It is also the state flower of Tamil Nadu state in India and in 2004 was adopted as official flower of the de facto rebel lands of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

Some synonyms, arising from the many variations, for Gloriosa superba include G. rothschildiana (or G. superba ‘Rothschildiana’), G. simplex, G. virescens, G. abyssinica, G. carsonii, G. minor, G. lutea, G. baudii.

The most common names are:

English: flame lily, fire lily, gloriosa lily, glory lily, superb lily, climbing lily, creeping lily

Zimbabwean: Amakukhulume (Ndebele), Kajongwe (Shona)

Hindi: Harihari, Kalihari

Tamil: Sen-kandhal, Karthigai Poo Maori (Cook Islands): rire vaevae-moa, riri, riri vavai-moa, riri vaviā-moa, vavai moa Rakahanga-Manihiki: tiare mokora Tongarevan (spoken): lili vaevae mokolā Tongarevan (written): riri vaevae mokorā

Swedish: klänglilja

Habit: herb


Genus: "Scandent herbs, the rootstock a horizontal rhizome, the stem leafy, the leaves spirally arranged or subopposite, the upper ones with cirrhose tips; flowers solitary, large, borne on long, spreading pedicels, actinomorphic, hermaphrodite; perianth segments 6, free, lanceolate, keeled within at base, long-persistent; stamens 6, hypogynous, the anthers extrorse, medifixed and versatile, opening by longitudinal slits; ovary superior, 3-celled, the carpels cohering only by their inner margins, the ovules numerous, the style deflected at base and projecting from the flower more or less horizontally; fruit a loculicidal capsule with many seeds" (Smith, 1979; pp. 141-142).

Species: A "scandent plant, climbing by leaftip tendrils. The perianth segments, which are accrescent during anthesis and become reflexed, are striking in color, yellow proximally and at margins and dark red in the median portion" (Smith, 1979; pp. 141-142).

Habitat/ecology: In Australia, "scattered naturalized populations exist in the understorey of coastal dry sclerophyll forest and sand dune vegetation throughout south-east Queensland and New South Wales" (Csurhes & Edwards, 1998; pp. 164-165). It is considered a rampant and dangerous invasive weed in Australia, dominating the coastal dunes at the expense of native species and leading to deaths of native animals and birds when ingested.

Propagation: "Propagation generally occurs from seeds, although mature plants can be divided and grown from tubers. The hard seeds can remain dormant for 6-9 months." (Narain, 1977, cited in Csurhes & Edwards, 1998; pp. 164-165).

Native range: "Southeastern Asia and parts of Malesia, but now widely cultivated" (Smith, 1979; pp. 141-142)

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