The other common names of this exotic flower are Tiger Claw, Bachnag (Hindi), Agnisikhe (Kannada), Agnimukhi (Sanskrit). Because of the curious shape and colors of the petals of the glory lily the names in different languages link it to snake, tiger claw, fire flames etc. The botanical name is Gloriosa Superba and belongs to the Liliaceae* family.
Glory Lily is a creeper that climbs up with tendrils formed at the tips of the leaves with an amazing display of flowers. Found in the wild in South India, I have come across this in Bandipur and Masinagudi during monsoons. I also had this rhizome planted in the flower bed and after a few days of continuous rain, the creeper would grow with high speed reaching 5 feet in a matter of few days and burst out into this incredible spidery green flower, which would turn to yellow and then to crimson. In winter and summer the plant is dormant.
The flowers are borne on long, spreading pedicels and the petals of glory lily are elongate and wrinkled and they arch backward exposing the green stamens, the pistil is positioned to one side of the flower. The flowers are 3 – 5 inch in length. Leaves are bright green and lance shape about 3 inches long. Avoid damaging the tips as it will stunt the growth of the plant. Give support for the creeper to grow with enough sunlight.
The flowers are good for flower arrangement and they can last for 7 to 8 days.
All parts of the plant are toxic if ingested as they contain colchicines and related alkaloids. The colorful flower has adorned a postal stamp issued by the Indian Postal Department to commemorate the flower. Glory Lily is the national flower of Zimbabwe, Rhodesia and is the state flower of Tamil Nadu, India.
The other varieties of glory lily are Rothschildiana, which is crimson; Citrina, which is yellow; and Simplex, which is orange and yellow.
Propagation can be either through seeds or rhizomes. Gather the pods when its color starts turning to light green. Dry in shade the pods for 10-15 days, the pods will open out showing deep orange yellow colored seeds. Collect the seeds, clean and dry them in shade again for a period of one week.
The soil should be light and airy in pots. In flower beds plant them in organic-rich, well-drained soil. Place tubers flat on their side 2 inches deep and feed monthly with a balanced fertilizer.
During winters where the temperatures dip below 20 degrees, the dormant rhizomes can be dug carefully, and placed in peat moss inside the house. They can be divided but ensure that there is a growing point on each division.
Major threats to the plant are Lily caterpillar and green caterpillar that feed on the leaves and flowers of the plant. An environment friendly insecticide will keep the plant healthy. Another threat is the rotting of the rhizome. Avoid over watering. Drench the soil with Bavistin at 0.2 per cent in order to control rhizome rot.
The plant is used in medicines in Africa and India. The seeds are a rich source of colchicine and are used to treat gout, rheumatism. The rhizomes are used as a tonic to treat diseases and also are used to treat snake bite.
*The Liliaceae, or the lily family, is a family of monocotyledons in the order Liliales. Shade-dwelling genera usually have broad, net-veined leaves, fleshy fruits with animal-dispersed seeds, rhizomes, and small, inconspicuous flowers; genera native to sunny habitats usually have narrow, parallel-veined leaves, capsular fruits with wind-dispersed seeds, bulbs, and large, visually conspicuous flowers.