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Last Update 06/03/08

Plant of the Month

Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana'

 Flame of the Woods, Flame Lily, Climbing Lily, Glory Lily

Gloriosa Lilies are a climbing member of the Lily family, which are natives of South Africa. These tubers are also a vine that climbs by means of tendrils at the tips of their leaves. Some common names include Gloriosa Lily, Flame of the Woods, Flame Lily, Climbing Lily and Glory Lily. All parts of plant including rootstock, are highly toxic if ingested; handling tubers may irritate the skin.

-- All parts the Gloriosa Lily contain a chemical called colchicine. This chemical is used by plant breeders to double up the chromosomes in a plantís DNA, thus it is used in hybridizing plants. Colchicine is a serious health problem if any part of the plant is swallowed, especially the tubers. Initial poisoning symptoms of colchicine develop in 2 to 6 hours. Contact your physician or poison control center immediately is Gloriosa Lily poisoning is suspected. --

The unusual and exotic flowers of the Gloriosa Lily have been featured on a US postage stamp and are the national flower of Zimbabwe, Africa. Gloriosa makes an outstanding cut flower in arrangements, and the configuration of its stamens and pistil has been compared to a clock and a minute hand.

Tropical  Flowers U.S. Postage Stamps 1999

Tropical Flowers, U.S. Postage Stamps, issued May 1, 1999

Blooming in mid-summer, these strange and exotic looking lily-like flowers are 4 to 5 inches across with wavy-edged petals that are reflexed back as if blown by a strong wind. In bud, the petals face downward, but they open up to a backward arch.

These wavy, swept-back petals are crimson red, with a yellow base and edged in bright yellow making the blossoms look like they're on fire. The green stamens are extremely prominent and spread outward, and the pistil points to the side of the nodding blooms.

They produce weak, trailing stems clothed with glossy, lush green, whorled leaves which are tipped at the ends with tendrils to aid in climbing. The fast growing vines can climb up to 8 feet on a fence or trellis in warm weather, bloom, then die.

Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana'. Click to enlarge.

Gloriosa Flower Close-up. Click to Enlarge.

Gloriosa Lily. Click to enlarge.

Gloriosa Lily. Click to enlarge.

Plant Facts:

Common Name:   Gloriosa Lily, Flame of the Woods, Flame Lily, Climbing Lily, Glory Lily

Botanical Name:   Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana'

Family:  Liliaceae

Plant Type:  Tuberous climbing lily-vine

Origin: Native to Tropical Africa and India

Zones: 8 (in sheltered areas) - 11

Height:  to 8'

Rate of Growth: Fast

Salt Tolerance: Low

Soil Requirements:  Improved sandy soil. Needs good drainage; cannot stand flooding.

Water Requirements: Water well when actively growing, no water when tubers are dormant

Nutritional Requirements: Balanced liquid fertilizer monthly, side dressings of composted manure

Light Requirements: Full to partial sun

Form:  Climbing perennial vine

Leaves:  Ovate-lance-shaped to oblong glossy bright green leaves, 2 to 3" long which narrow to form terminal tendrils, 1-1/4 to 2" long.

Flowers: Summer to Autumn, nodding flowers, 2 to 4" across, are borne from upper leaf axis. Flowers have 6 reflexed, wavy-margined, red tepals, often yellow margined, with long, protruding stamens.

Fruits:  N/A

Pests or diseases:  Aphids, anthracnose, viruses, bulb rot.

UsesThe vine is weak and sparse standing alone, so is best combined with another vine on a trellis, a shrub, or a fence.

Bad Habits: All parts of plant are Highly Poisonous.

Cost:  $$ -- Very reasonable

Propagation:  Offsets and division of tubers.

Source:  A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

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