Gloriosa lily or flame lily: Medicinal properties and Growing


Gloriosa lily or flame lily is a wild plant found on several continents and is commonly planted as an ornamental plant, including as an important plant with a role in medicine and agriculture. Particularly, Superbine or Colchicine contained in this plant has many medicinal properties, but this substance is classified as toxic that can be fatal if getting it excessively.

• Division : Anthophyta
• Class : Angiospermae
• Order : Liliflorae
• Family : Liliaceae
• Genus : Gloriosa
• Species : Superba
• Scientific name : Gloriosa superba Linn.
• Common name :
– Gloriosa lily 1
– Flame lily 2
– Glory lily 3
– Climbing lily
– Turk’s cap
– Superb lily

Origin and Distribution
Plants that are in the same genus as gloriosa lily (Genus: Gloriosa) around the world, found about 7 species, of which 6 species are found in Africa and in Asia. The only type found is Gloriosa superba Linn.

Gloriosa lily or flame lily can be found in Asian countries, including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia and other countries nearby.

Botanical of Gloriosa lily
Root and stem
Gloriosa lily or flame lily is a creeper plant with two parts of stem, i.e. underground stem and stem above ground. Its underground stem is often called rhizome or tuber with a V or ax shape where two cylinder-like rhizomes are connected to each other; sometimes there may be two tubers or four rhizomes. Its head bark is thin and reddish brown while inside meat is white powder with slight hardness. The connection point of these rhizomes or tubers (V shape) has a spot where its seedling will grow above the soil. If this part is broken into two pieces, its tuber cannot produce a shoot. The stem above ground follows its underground rhizome and is a creeper leaning on a tree or shrub for more than 5 meters, and its size is around 0.5-1.5 cm.

Creepers or vines of gloriosa lily or flame lily usually produce branches at its height or length of about 60-100 cm and there are about 3-8 branches each plant. Each branch has a distance of 1-3 cm.

As for the root system of gloriosa lily, only the fibrous roots are found. Which the fibrous roots of the stem is formed at the base of the stem, which can only be found at the beginning of the growth period. But when the tree withered away, these roots would dry out.

Gloriosa lily or flame lily leaves are simple leaf with no petioles and are alternately arranged on its joints, 1-3 leaves each, along the branch’s length. Its joints with branches have about 3-4 leaves while its joints with flowers have only one leaf. Each leaf is lanceolate and is about 2-4 cm wide and 5-20 cm long.Leaf blade and margin is smooth, fresh green and oily. Leaf base is slightly acute and leaf apex is sharp and long. Leaf has clear midribs.

Gloriosa lily or flame lily flowers are solitary flowers and its leaves on upper joints of branches consist of 6 petals that are slender and steep and are 8-10 cm long and 2-3 cm wide. Its petal margin is undulate and each petal apex bends toward each other. Petals of immature flowers are pale green while mature flowers that are fully bloomed are fresh to dark red, which will be gradually changed from pale green to red throughout its petals. When its flowers are fully bloomed, these petals will gradually weaken and bend down.

Gloriosa lily or flame lily stamens are alternately arranged in a circle under its petals, six stamens each. These stamen branches are 3.5 cm long and their base is red while their apex is yellow with cylindrical anthers perpendicular to these branches. There is only one pistil located in the middle of internal flowers next to its petals, and this pistil apex is separated into three pieces. Its ovary is located at the receptacle and consists of three compartments.

Gloriosa lily or flame lily will bloom during the rainy season from August to October each year and produce its fruits from October to January.

Fruit and seed
Gloriosa lily or flame lily fruits are cylindrical and its fruit base is sharp while its fruit apex is sharp and blunt. Its fruits are about 2-2.5 cm wide and 4-7 cm long and their peel is uneven with three longitudinal slits or sections along its fruits. Its raw fruits are light green while its ripe fruits are yellow-green. There are 30-50 seeds per pod, depending on the size of the pod, and each seed is round and hard. Its immature seeds are white and succulent while mature or ripe seeds are tangerine with a size of 2-3 mm.

Benefits of gloriosa lily or flame lily
1. Gloriosa lily is used to grow as an ornamental plant and can be grow both in a plot and in a pot because its flowers are strange and its petals are beautifully red.
2. Its tuber can be ground and mixed with water to kill insects or worms.
3. All of its parts can be boiled in water before being sprayed in a vegetable or fruit garden in order to prevent pests or fruit flies.
4. All of its parts contain a substance that stimulates a cell division in plants. Therefore, it is used for mutating various plants that are different from their original species. This can be easily done by dipping the seeds of other plants into the extract or boiled water obtained from this plant, including its tubers, leaves and seeds, before growing.
5. All of its parts can be boiled in water before being given to animals for removing parasites. In addition, all of its parts can be mixed with grass or roughage before being given to animals.

All substances found in this plant can indicate toxicity and are classified as highly toxic, especially Superbine (Colchicine) that is mostly found in its seeds, followed by tubers, roots, stems, leaves, and flowers, respectively. Gloriosa lily or flame lily from China contains Superbine (Colchicine) at most while gloriosa lily or flame lily from Europe and Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, contains less Superbine (Colchicine), and gloriosa lily or flame lily from India and Sri Lanka contains least Superbine (Colchicine).

Substances found
– Lumicolchicine
– Gloriosine
– Superbine (Colchicine)
– Choline
– Phytosterolines
– Benzoic acid
– Salicylic acid
– Dextrose
– Resin
– Fluorescent dye

Flower, Leaf and Pericarp
– Superbine (Colchicine)
– Lumicolchicine

Medicinal properties of gloriosa lily or flame lily
Tuber and root
Its tubers and roots can be boiled for drinking or dried, ground and packed into capsules with the following properties:
• Prevention of cell division and cancer
• In Iran, its tubers are used for sexual stimulation.
• Carminative
• Fever reduction
• Treatment of gout, especially by Superbine (Colchicine)
• Treatment of diseases associated with blood
• Treatment of gonorrhea
• Inhibition of microorganisms
• Expectoration
• Relief of flatulence and indigestion
• In Sri Lanka, it is used to relieve joint and inflammation of joints (Colchicine).
• Treatment of body aches and sprains
• In India, it is used to treat gonorrhea
• Treatment of hemorrhoid
• Removal of parasites
• Laxative
• Release of bile

Its tubers and roots can be ground for external applications, including boiling for bathing or mixing its powder with water for applying.
• In India, its tubers are used for external treatment of leprosy and other skin diseases.
• In India, its tubers are dried and ground into powder before being dissolved in water and applied onto the vagina to widen the cervix.
• It is used to press or apply onto a wound to dry the wound, reduce the pus, and accelerate the wound healing.
• Its powder is used to apply onto a wound caused by poisonous animals or insect bites to destroy their poisoning and reduce the swelling and pain caused by poisonous snakes, scorpions and centipedes.

The leaves are dried, ground into powder or fresh leaves are boiled for drinking water.
• Boiling its leaves with water for drinking has properties similar to its tubers.

Its leaves can be ground or its fresh leaves are used for external applications.
• Fresh leaves are squeezed to plug in the nose for minimize bleeding.
• Boiled water obtained from its leaves can be used for bathing to treat skin diseases and rashes.

Pharmaceutical effects and other properties of gloriosa lily or flame lily
• Inhibition of tumors
• Inhibition of inflammation
• Stimulation of cell division in plants causing their mutations
• Inhibition of parasite growth

Toxicity of gloriosa lily or flame lily
Superbine or Colchicine and its derivatives from tubers, leaves and seeds of gloriosa lily or flame lily can cause acute toxicity if they are excessively ingested as follows:
• Numb tongue and mouth with no sensation
• Difficulty in speaking
• Burning sensation at diaphragm and stomach
• Numb skin and external body
• Nausea and vomiting
• Diarrhea and bloody stool
• Dizziness and weakness of hands and feet
• Ptosis and photophobia
• Tachycardia and rapid pulse
• Difficulty in breathing
• Seizure and unconsciousness
• Death later

The amount or concentration of this plant that is toxic to humans and animals has not been clearly investigated. Therefore, the use of all of its parts by boiling and directly drinking should be based on a required amount. If it is excessively used, it may be toxic to human or animal life or abortion.

Gloriosa lily or flame lily is popular growing by using its tubers and cultivation of its seeds, but mostly its tubers are used for growing. Because new born stems grow rapidly and have a higher survival rate than seeds, and can be utilized faster than growing with seeds.

In addition, growing with seeds must also be used from many years of age. Because more than just flowers and fruits have to be taken, it takes about 2-3 years. The growing of gloriosa lily can grow both in field and in pots.

Land or soil preparation
For growing it in field, the soil should be harrowed and all weeds should be completely removed. Then, farm yard manure and chemical fertilizers are sowed on the ground before plowing again.

For growing it in a pot, the soil should be mixed with organic materials, such as farm yard manure or black rice husks, at a ratio of 1: 2.

Gloriosa lily growing by tuber
Naturally, the dormancy of its tubers is during a drought season when its stems will wither and die, and only underground tubers exist and shoot up again during the rainy season after receiving rainwater. Therefore, growing by its tubers should be done during the rainy season around early May to June.

Its tubers to be grow should be large with a weigh of 7-8 grams or more and with its buds sticking out from its origins. The use of these tubers can produce all new plants derived from all tubers. On the other hand, if tubers with a weight of less than 3 grams are used, they cannot produce any bud. After its tubers have been chosen, they are put into holes, 1-2 tubers each, and the space between holes is 80-100 cm and between rows is 1.5-2 meters before leveling down the soil and watering.

Its tubers should be harvested from their plot in February – March and left for 2-3 months before growing so that these tubers are in their dormancy period first.

As for the growth of these tubers in the early stages after their buds have emerged above the soil, they will wilt because its stems will pull nutrients out for using. In 5-6 months later, one or two new tubers will be produced.

Gloriosa lily growing by seed
Its seeds to be grow should be seeds obtained from ripe fruits collected from withered stems. These fruits should be kept for 2-3 months. Then, these seeds are peeled and soaked in water for 3-5 hours or in warm water for 1 hour or soaked in germination stimulants, such as gibberellin or thiourea.

Growing by seeds will be first done in a cultivating tray or bag that contains growing materials, which are a mixture of soil and farm yard manure or compost. These seeds are put into the bags, 1-2 seeds each, before watering. After 7-10 days, these seeds will begin to grow as sprouts that should be taken care of until they are 15-20 cm high before being grow into a field or a pot.

Harvest of tubers
For growing by tubers or seeds, its tubers can be harvested when they have been grow for 8-10 months, namely, they are harvested after their stems have wilted from January to March.

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