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What is a Glory Lily?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Glory lily is a common name for the genus Gloriosa, which encompasses flowering vines from the Colchicaceae family. As deciduous perennials, their complete characteristics can be observed only once a year, during the rainy season. They are considered toxic to both humans and animals, but they are still grown for ornamental functions. Naturally growing and cultivated glory lilies are found in regions of Asia and Africa where climates are optimal for these vines. Other common names of this genus are flame lily, creeping lily, and gloriosa lily.

Tendrils that grow at the ends of their leaves allow glory lilies to climb or creep over structures. Their flame-like petals have a gradated color, usually starting with bright red or dark pink tips and slowly turning deep orange at the middle and ending in a yellow to yellow-green base. Long upward-facing stamens are attached to these flowers’ bases, held by thin, soft stalks. Foliage of glory lilies has long green or yellow-green leaves that are about 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) in length. The creeping stalks of these perennials can climb heights of more than 12 feet (3.6 m).

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Gloriosa rothschildiana, also called Gloriosa superba rothschildiana, is one of the most commonly grown species of glory lily. Its crimson-colored flowers have wavy petals with bright yellow linings. When in full bloom, rothschildiana flowers measure around 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm) in diameter. The entire plant can stand to a height of more than 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m). Like all species of the genus Gloriosa, this perennial vine is also poisonous.

Another popular type of glory lily is the Gloriosa simplex species. These blossoming climbers have orange-colored petals with light green bases. As shorter versions of the glory lily, these plants reach only a maximum height of 3 feet (0.9 m).

Colchicine, the toxic substance found in these climbers, is responsible for these plants’ highly poisonous nature. All parts of glory lily vines have colchicines, but the roots have been observed to bear the greatest concentration of toxins. Ingestion of any part of one of these plants can cause symptoms similar to arsenic poisoning, including fever and burning sensations in the throat and mouth. If not immediately addressed, it can lead to death.

Despite being recognized as poisonous plants, tropical gardens in Asia, Africa, and Australia still cultivate them for their rare physical appearance. Traditional groups in some regions of Africa also grow them as herbal remedies for women who have difficulties during labor. Potting them in large containers or directly planting their cuttings in well-drained ground soil are the suggested methods of propagating glory lilies.

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