Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Glory Lily (Gloriosa superba) is a perennial herb that is a very serious weed of near-coastal forests and dune scrubs in Queensland and New South Wales.
  • It is commonly grown as an ornamental and its spread into the wild from disposal of garden waste.
  • It is conspicuous in its climbing habit (aided by tendrils produced from the leaf tips) and its brightly coloured flowers that have their petals arched upwards to expose the style and stamens.
  • All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans, although some parts have been used in traditional medicines in India.
  • It is a source of the chemical colchicine.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Glory Lily (Gloriosa superba) is a perennial herb, dying down annually to a persistent subterranean rootstock of tuber-like corms (short, vertical, swollen underground stem of a plant). The stems are usually branched, up to 4 m long, and climb using slender tendrils to 2 cm long that are produced singly from the tips of the leaves. The leaf blades are smooth, shining and hairless, 6–20 cm long, 1.5–4 cm wide, broadest below the midpoint, stalkless and partly wrapped around the stem at their bases.

The flowers are produced singly from the upper stems, on stalks usually about as long as the leaves, or slightly longer. The six petals are yellow, orange or red, often bi-coloured (yellow near the base), 5–8 cm long, 7–15 mm wide, with wavy margins, and are bent upwards exposing the six prominent, 3–7 cm-long spreading stamens. The anthers produce bright yellow or orange pollen. The style is distinctly bent where it is attached to the ovary.

The fruit is a capsule, 4–10 cm long and 1–2 cm in diameter. The fruit splits into six segments when ripe to expose the initially reddish, berry-like seeds that eventually ripen to be brown, hard and 4–5 mm in diameter (Harden 1993).

For further information and assistance with identification of Glory Lily contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

Yellow, Orange, Red

Growth form (weed type/habit)

Vine, Herb

Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

In Australia, Glory Lily is principally a weed of coastal dunes and near-coastal lowland sites, occurring mainly on sands. It is usually associated with coastal scrubs dominated by plants such as Acacia, Allocasuarina, Banksia, Callitris, Corymbia or Melaleuca species, as well as sites that support, or have supported, littoral rainforests (Groves et al. 2005; Queensland Herbarium 2007; National Herbarium of New South Wales 2008).

Are there similar species?

In the same family as Glory Lily is the occasionally cultivated Littonia modesta, which resembles it in most respects (flower colour, climbing habit, tendril-bearing leaves) except that the petals are not conspicuously bent back. A wide variety of colourfully-flowered Lillies (Lilium spp.) are grown as ornamentals, and may broadly resemble Glory Lily in flower, but the conspicuously upwardly-bent petals and the climbing habit facilitated by the leaf-tendrils are diagnostic for Glory Lily. Some species of Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria spp.) may also superficially resemble Glory Lily in flower colour and general habit (although not climbing), but the ovary in Peruvian Lily is inferior (sits below the flower) and strongly ribbed, the 'petals' are not all the same (whereas they are in Glory Lily) and the leaves lack tendrils (Spencer 2005).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Native ecosystems: Glory Lily is a very serious weed of near-coastal vegetation. It forms dense understorey carpets in coastal dune systems, competing strongly with native flora. It is regarded as one of the ten most serious invasive garden plants in Australia available for sale in nurseries (Groves et al. 2005). It is known to colonise bare soil after attempted control of the Weed of National Significance, Bitou bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera), and has been recorded with up to 70 stems per square metre (NSW Agriculture 2005). It has been suggested that some deaths of native birds and animals have been caused by ingestion of the seeds (Maroochy Shire Council undated).

Human impacts: The plant contains colchicine alkaloids and has been recorded as a cause of poisoning in humans. The rootstock is believed to be more toxic than other parts of the plant. In parts of India it is used under strict preparation guidelines in Ayurvedic medicine, and it is grown commercially for colchicine production. It is reported to have allelopathic effects (toxicity from a plant that inhibits the growth of other plants), interfering with the establishment and growth of associated species (Everist 1981; Oudhia 2003; NSW Agriculture 2005).

How does it spread?

Most infestations of Glory Lily are believed to have been initiated through the dumping of garden refuse (Groves et al. 2005), but the brightly coloured seeds are likely to be attractive to birds and avian dispersal has been reported (BFNS 2002-2004).

What is its history in Australia?

Glory Lily has been cultivated as a garden ornamental in Australia for many years. It was identified as naturalised at Caloundra in south-east Queensland in 1950. It is now a serious weed on Moreton Island and the south-east Queensland coast and along the north coast of New South Wales (Groves et al. 2005). It has been reported as occurring in Victoria, but there are no herbarium specimens supporting this claim (Groves et al. 2005; AVH 2008; National Herbarium of Victoria 2008).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: Simple control measures include responsible disposal of garden refuse to avoid the establishment of new colonies.

Chemical control: For existing populations chemical control can be used (Sparkes & Rogers undated).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

The seeds of Glory Lily may remain dormant in the soil for 6–9 months, and germinate in spring. In cultivation, optimal germination conditions are reported to be at temperatures of 21-24 °C. Plants may reach maturity in approximately 6 months after germination, and flowers are borne from October to May. Plants die back to the tubers/corms in winter, and new shoots emerge again in spring (Harden 1993; Oudhia 2002; Groves et al. 2005; NSW Agriculture 2005; Grow-em plant propagation database 2008).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Glory Lily is distributed mainly along the coastal areas of eastern Australia, from northern Queensland to central New South Wales. It is most common in northern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland. It is also recorded in the Northern Territory. The species is widely cultivated, and outbreaks are likely wherever suitable habitat exists in proximity to gardens where it is grown. It is also a serious weed on several Pacific Islands (Lord Howe Island, Cook Islands, Fiji, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia) (Navie 2004; Groves et al. 2005; PIER 2006; AVH 2008).

Where does it originate?

Glory Lily occurs naturally in tropical Africa and tropical Asia (Harden 1993).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Gloriosa superba

Other scientific names (synonyms)?


Does it have other known common name(s)?

Gloriosa, Gloriosa Lily, Flame Lily, Rhodesian Flame Lily, Climbing Lily, Kalihari (Hindi name)

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