Gloriosa lily. Captured in Largo, Florida, USA.
Featured in—GEMS-Sept. 21., 2011
Gloriosa superba —-Lilaceae
This flamboyant yellow and red flower is a climbing lily of which there are very few in the world. It grows wild in the Siwalik hills and the Western Ghats at a height of about 500-1600 m.
The glory lily grows at its best from June to September, though a few can be found in the cooler months as well.
The leaves are oval with pointed tips and grow alternately. The flower’s large claw-like petals are bright yellow and red, with wavy margins. The stamens, green at first, then red, are tipped with yellow anthers. The plant climbs by ‘finger-tip’ tendrils at the tips of the leaves. Old plants can go to about 3 m. or more. The lily grows from a rhizome, which is a sort of thickened underground stem. These flowers can grow from seed but take
time to flower this way. Tiger’s claw is another apt name that is used for this flower.
Glory lilies are cultivated in north India for a drug used for the heart. An extract from the plant is used to expel worms. The juice from the plant is also used to kill lice in the hair. The Gloriosa superba is a favourite with gardeners and is not difficult to spot in the wild, especially in the ghats. G. rothschildiana, which comes from tropical Africa has also been planted in various gardens. In the latter, the blossoms are red and yellow and then change to a deep red. In Hindi, the flower is known as Kalihari.
There is a folk tale about a miser who buried his riches deep in the ground. King Solomon asked for the riches when he was building his temple in Jerusalem, but the miser refused. Soon after that, the miser’s daughter fell sick and he offered his riches to anyone who could cure her. As he went to collect them, he broke his leg and died. The Glory lily sprang up where he lay buried. On the plant lived a praying mantis, who was the spirit of the old miser.
Two white lilies