Glorious Gloriosa Lily

The gloriosa lily was named, Gloriosa superba. It is a scientific name that should scare no one. The generic name, Gloriosa, means “glorious’. As if this wasn’t praise enough, this species of Gloriosa was given the species name Gloriosa superba, the superb and glorious lily. Clearly someone was dazzled by this flower. I know I am. The flowers are produced for several months starting in late spring and continuing into summer. And it is winter-hardy here and has been for years, even before we transitioned from zone 7b to 8a. It receives absolutely no coddling, growing in either full sun or part day sun, in average soil. It is a well behaved small scale vine growing to about 6 to 8′ tall each year. It dies to the ground in the winter. The tips of the leaves are tendrils so it needs something slender to grasp. A sturdy shrub is an excellent choice. It grows from a cigar shaped tuberous-root and is most often sold as dormant tubers, though it is also easy to raise from seed. Despite its very lily-like flower Gloriosa lilies are in the colchicum family, Colchicaceae, and like the family’s namesake, gloriosa lilies are poisonous if eaten.

The flowers range from red to pink to orange and individual flowers change colors as they age. The wide range of colors in our population probably represent some interspecific hybrids. The flower form suggests movement either of a shooting star or a hot air gondola slowly drifting to the ground. They are pollinated by large butterflies and sunbirds in their native Africa and Indian subcontinent. Our native butterflies visit them here, and it is likely that hummingbirds do as well. Life’s is too short to be without the superb and glorious Gloriosa superba.

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