Gloriosa superba L.

Very variable species formerly thought to be at least three distinct species.  Frost-tender, tuberous-rooted climbing perennial with glossy lance-shaped leaves which narrow to form terminal tendrils.  The flowers have wavy-margined petals of red or purple, often yellow-edged or entirely yellow.  Summer flowering.  To 2m.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘The extravagance of the present generic name, its being accompanied by a specific one little less exaggerated, its being an adjective, and more worthy of the whim of a dutch florist than of the taste of Linnaeus, have provoked several attempts to get rid of it for that of Methonica, an appellation the plant is known by in Malabar.  But we see no defect in any name by which a genus is generally and rightly known, of which the inconvenience can ever equal that infallibly caused by the change of it; and prefer the well known denomination to that less known, altho’ of better taste.

The plant is singular as well as beautiful.  The scarlet undulate retroverted ascending segments of the corolla, are likened by Linnaeus to so many flames; the style points horizontally, and appears as if broken at the base and fallen on its side; the root is a fleshy brittle elongated somewhat flattened tuber, bent downwards on each side from the middle into a kind of arch, from the upper part of the centre of which the stem rises; in old plants a catenation of these forms a structure of very singular appearance.  Monsieur Desfontaines recommends the taking up of these when the stem decays, and laying them by in the hothouse, before they are replanted in the spring.  The stem is from six to ten feet high, weak and supported by the hold that the leaves take of the neighbouring plants, by means of a spiral tendril growing from their point.  The corolla varies from two to three inches in depth.  The plant has the reputation of being poisonous.  Its place in the natural system is among the Lilia, near to Erythronium and Uvularia.

Native of the East Indies.  Introduced by Mr. Bentinck, afterwards Lord Portland, in 1690.  We suspect the plant from Guinea is a distinct species.  Requires to be kept, while growing, constantly in the tan-pit of the hothouse, where it flowers late in the summer.  Multiplied by parting the tubers.  The drawing was made from a plant which flowered this autumn in Mr. Vere’s collection at Kensington Gore.’  [BR f.77/1816].  BM t.2539/1825.  ABR pl.129/1801.  Redouté L pl.26/1802-1815.

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [B.177/1850].  Naturalised in coastal districts of NSW north of Sydney and in Queensland.


Published Jan 06, 2010 - 03:26 PM | Last updated Jan 07, 2010 - 01:28 PM

Shown are lance-shaped leaves with terminal tendrils and wavy-margined red and yellow flowers. Redout? Liliac?es pl.26, 1802-15.

Gloriosa superba L. | Redouté Liliacées pl.26/1802-1815 | BHL

More details about Gloriosa superba L.
Family Colchicaceae
Region of origin

Africa, India

  • Gloriosa virescens Lindl.
  • Gloriosa carsonii Bak.
  • Gloriosa minor Rendle
  • Gloriosa simplex D.Don
  • Methonica superba Desfont.
  • Methonica malabarorum Herm.
Common Name

Glory lily, Creeping lily

Name in the Camden Park Record

Gloriosa superba 

Confidence level high