Glory Lily/ Fire Lily (Gloriosa superba) is a tender, tuberous rooted, perennial climber that climbs over plants with the aid of tendrils at the ends of leaves. It has large showy, ‘flaming’ yellow-orange-red flowers with 6 large wrinkled petals ensconsed by 6 prominent stamens. Flowers are solitary and open by longitudinal slits in the buds.
The plant is rich in alkaloids and is dangerously toxic. Leaves are spirally arranged around the fleshy green stem. Glory Lily was once common in the Western Ghats but is increasingly threatened by excessive exploitation for producing herbal medicines. It is the State Flower of Tamil Nadu (National Flower of the Tamil Eelam!!).
The Tramp encountered the beautiful flowers on the forest track to Bhoj Darara in mid-September. The anthers were exceptionally rich in powdery yellow pollen and the handling of the flowers for getting a clear photograph left the fingers yellow. The Tramp later learnt that like all things beautiful the plant is extremely dangerous and yields ‘colchicine’ – a deadly ‘spindle poison’ that blocks cell-division. A dose of 6 mg/kg of colchicine is lethal!!