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Gloriosa superba - L.

Common Name Gloriosa Lily, Climbing Lily, Flame Lily
Family Colchicaceae
USDA hardiness 8-12
Known Hazards The whole plant is highly toxic due to the presence of the alkaloid colchicine[293 , 310 ]. Diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains are often the first signs of poisoning. The diarrhoea may become severe and haemorrhagic, and can thus lead to metabolic acidosis, dehydration, hypotension and shock. A burning sensation in the throat, stomach and skin may also be an early sign of intoxication. Severe reactions include extensive vascular damage and acute renal toxicity with oliguria and haematuria. The patients may develop convulsions, delirium, muscle weakness, neuropathy and ascending paralysis of the central nervous system. In patients who have taken an overdose of Gloriosa superba bulbs, death occurs as a result of respiratory depression and cardiovascular collapse[310 ].(All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested)
Habitats Locally common in brushwood, hedges and open forest, usually at elevations up to 300 metres, occasionally to 600 metres[310 ].
Range Tropical and southern Africa, through the Indian Ocean and tropical Asia to Malaysia and Indonesia.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Gloriosa superba Gloriosa Lily, Climbing Lily, Flame Lily

Gloriosa superba Gloriosa Lily, Climbing Lily, Flame Lily


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Gloriosa superba or commonly known as Climbing Lily, Flame lily, Creeping Lily, Glory Lily, Gloriosa Lily, Tiger Claw, and Fire Lily, is a perennial herb growing from a fleshy rhizome. It is scandent using tendrils. The stem reaches 4 m long. The leaves are arranged alternately or opposite. The flowers are brightly red to orange in color, with yellowish bases. Climbing lily is poisonous, especially its tuberous rhizome, due to its high content of a toxic alkaloid called colchicine. However, the plant has long been used in traditional medicine particularly for gout, open wounds, infertility, sprains, cancer, smallpox, sexually transmitted diseases, leprosy, kidney problems, etc. It is also used as a laxative and an alexiteric. In Nigeria, the plant is used in arrow poison.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Gloriosa superba is a deciduous Perennial Climber growing to 2.5 m (8ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9. The flowers are pollinated by Sugar Birds, Butterflies. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Eugone superba (L.) Salisb. Gloriosa angulata Schumach. Gloriosa cirrhifolia Stokes Gloriosa doniana

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Abortifacient  Alterative  Anthelmintic  Antiarthritic  Antiasthmatic  Antihaemorrhoidal  Antiinflammatory  Antiperiodic  
Antirheumatic  Cancer  Cholagogue  Decongestant  Eczema  Emetic  Leprosy  
Malaria  Odontalgic  Parasiticide  Purgative  Skin  Tonic

Although poisonous, the plant is often used in traditional medicine both in Asia and in Africa. Mainly used in external applications, it is also often injested in small quantities. In Ayurvedic medicine the tuber is used as an abortifacient, alterative, antiarthritic, antihaemorrhoid, antileprotic, antiperiodic, cholagogue, purgative and tonic[310 , 646 , 701 ]. It is considered to be useful in the treatment of ulcers, leprosy, piles, inflammations, abdominal pains, itching and thirst[646 ]. At low doses, the tuber is considered to have numerous medicinal applications in Africa. A decoction is taken to treat abdominal disorders, to induce abortions, as a tonic and as a purgative[299 ]. The tuber is sometimes used as an emetic to induce vomiting as a means of removing toxins from the body[775 ]. The tuber is also part of a preparation used to treat impotence and to act as an abortifacient[299 ]. The sap is an ingredient of a drink that induces sleep[299 ]. Applied externally, the tuber is used in the treatment of bruises, colic, chronic ulcers, haemorrhoids and cancer. It is put into poultices to relieve neuralgia, and used in topical applications to treat arthritic conditions, swellings of the joints, sprains and dislocations[299 ]. It is claimed to have antidotal properties to snakebites[299 ]. The macerated tuber is also taken against smallpox, leprosy, eczema, itch, and ringworm[299 ]. A paste made from the tuber is applied externally to facilitate parturition[299 ]. The juice of the tuber is used as ear drops to treat earache, and is also applied to the gums to treat painful teeth[299 ]. The anthelmintic properties of the tuber, fruits and leaves are widely known and they are all used to treat infections of Guinea worms, schistosomes (causing bilharzia), roundworm, tapeworm, liver fluke and filaria[299 ]. Leaf juice, unripe fruits mixed with butter, and tuber macerate are frequently used to kill head lice[299 ]. Soup made from leaf or tuber sap is given to women suffering from sterility, delayed puberty, delayed childbirth and menstrual problems[299 ]. The leaves are administered in an enema as a decongestant[299 ]. The juice of the plant is drunk as an antimalarial[299 ]. Used externally, a leaf decoction is applied as a liniment to ease coughs, general pain and dropsy of the scrotum[299 ]. Leaf juice is instilled into the nose in the treatment of fainting[299 ]. The crushed leaves are applied to the chest to treat asthma and to affected areas to treat rheumatism[299 ]. The herb is burnt and the ash applied to wounds in order to promote healing[299 ]. Sap from the leaf tip is applied externally to treat pimples and skin eruptions[295 ] The seeds are a commercial source of colchicine, an amino alkaloid which is biosynthetically derived from the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine. The tubers also contain colchicine, but the content of the seeds is reported to be up to ten times higher, hence the importance attached to good seed set when the plant is grown for colchicine production. Colchicine is used in the treatment of gout and rheumatism. At present it is the drug of choice for acute gout. It reduces the inflammatory reaction to urate crystals deposited in the joints[310 ]. Because of its highly toxic nature, colchicine should be used under supervision of a physician[310 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Other Uses: Colchicine, obtained from all parts of the plant but particularly the seeds, inhibits cell division and is used in plant breeding to produce polyploidy[310 ]. Extracts of the shoots and of the tubers of the plant show strong nematicidal activity, which can be largely attributed to colchicine[310 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the lowland tropics and subtropics, where it can be found at elevations up to 600 metres, the plant has a clear preference for seasonal, monsoon climates with a pronounced dry season[310 ]. The plant is not resistant to frost[352 ]. Succeeds in full sun to partial shade[352 ]. Prefers a moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil[352 ]. Prefers an acid to neutral soil[299 ]. The plant has often escaped from cultivation and has been classified as 'Invasive' in some areas[305 ]. Plants propagated from seeds take 3 - 4years to bloom[299 ]. Plants can flower and produce seeds all year round, though mainly during the rainy season[310 ]. In Tamil Nadu, India, small-scale plantings, raised from tubers, yield on average 250 - 300 kilos of seed per hectare from the second year onwards[310 ]. In South Africa the seed production of 'wild-type' plants is positively correlated with height of the plant, and is on average 258 seeds per plant for plants 60 - 65cm tall compared with about 30 seeds per plant for plants 30 - 40cm tall[310 ]. Flowering Time: Late Spring/Early Summer Mid Summer Late Summer/Early Fall. (early summer, mid summer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall). Bloom Color: Red-Orange Bright Yellow. (red, orange, yellow, pink). Spacing: 36-48 in. (90-120 cm).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - Chemical scarification (e.g. with 1% hypochlorite) or removal of the sarcotesta reduces seed dormancy from 6 - 9 months to about 4 months, and accelerates germination from 29 - 30 days to 11 - 15 days[310 ]. Germination rates as high as 97% were reached for seeds incubated at 20 - 25?c for a period of 31 days[310 ]. Higher temperatures have adverse effects[310 ]. Vegetative propagation by tubers is a common practice, but not very suitable for the establishment of large plantings. The maximum number of daughter corms produced per plant is two. Separating the bilobed hypopodial tubers produces a higher percentage of flowering plants than leaving the tubers undivided (about 97% versus about 63%)[310 ]. Tuber dormancy can be overcome by soaking in continuously aerated water. Small tubers have been found to have a higher multiplication rate than bigger ones[310 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Cumaretron, Cumaro-turo, Papassuque, Tititamba, african honeysuckle, agnisikha, aranha de emposse, bisalanguli, climbing lily, climbing-lily, creeping lily, creeping-lily, flame lily, flame-lily, flamelily, garbhanut, garras de tigre, gloriosa, glory lily, glory-lily, halini, haritali phut, kalappai, kalihari, kalihari, karianag, kariyari, kewari, khadiyanag, kimanja nouchawi, kizhangu, klänglilja, kolikutumana gade, langali, langalika, le gloriosa, lis de malabar, lis glorieux, lis grimpant, lírio-trepador, la?gali (tuberous root), mathonni, mkalamu, pan, potthidumpa, ruhmeskrone, superb glory, tiger's claw.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Asia, China, Central Africa, Congo, East Africa, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, Indochina, Laos, Mozambique, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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