THE flame lily’s botanical name is the gloriosa superba.
Gloriosa means full of glory and superba is superb but it is more commonly known as the flame lily, glory lily, climbing lily or creeping lily.
The flower has immense medicinal properties that treat a number of diseases.
Wikipedia describes the flame lily as a perennial herb that climbs or scrambles over other plants with the aid of tendrils at the end of its leaves and can reach three metres in height.
As of October 2018 (update), the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families accepted eleven species of the flame lily or gloriosa, ignoring hybrids, varieties and cultivars. Many other names are currently rejected as synonyms or unresolved for lack of sufficient data.
In India, the flame lily is distributed in the Western Ghats but the density is rapidly decreasing due to excessive uprooting by herbal medicine producers.
It has cultural significance among some indigenous tribes of Zimbabwe, Southern Africa and parts of India.
The flame lily is widespread in tropical and Southern Africa, thriving on the sparse savannah woodlands, sand dunes and grassland in sandy loam soil.
The flower is a protected plant in the country and cannot be harvested.
The plant is also the state flower of Tamil Nadu State in India.
The flower is a spectacular climber with a striking distinctive flower of subtle colour variations from a dark pink/red, red through to yellow and orange.
The flower is used in traditional medicines to cure a variety of complaints in Southern Africa and some parts of India.
The alkaloid colchicine in the flower makes it an effective method of treating painful gout conditions, infertility, wounds and intestinal worms.
It’s also been used to treat kidney problems, arthritis, colic, cholera and ulcers
For the treatment of gout, the fresh flower is mixed with some blood of meat and boiled before the concoction is taken.
Alternatively, the flower is dried and mixed with other herbs. It is then rubbed on the painful part.
Women who are infertile have also been said to have benefitted from the flower.
The flower is ground into a pulp and mixed with raw eggs and the mixture is drunk when the woman is about to go for her menstrual circle.
For wounds, the sap from the flower is applied directly on the open wound.
The flower is used to make medicine for intestinal worms.
The flower has also been used for the successful treatment of cholera and other waterborne diseases.
Cholera is known to kill a lot of people and cause stomach ailments; however, the mixture of the plant’s tubers, leaves and flowers, boiled together, have been used with success to treat stomach ailments and cholera.
The boiled liquid is also used to treat dirty water before it is used for cooking and drinking. The dirty water is poured in earthenware pots and drums; the boiled mixture of the flower is then poured in the dirty water. The water is left to simmer for sometime before it is used.
Elderly people who suffer from arthritis also successfully used the flower to treat the ailment over the years.
For the treatment of arthritis, the flower’s leaves are ground into a pulp then mixed with other wild flowers from a muhacha tree. The mixture, according to elders, lowers pain as well as act as a sleeping pill.
Alternatively, the fresh leaves and flowers of the plant are bandaged on the painful joints overnight. Elders say this lowers pain of the joints and the continual use of the concoction can eventually cure arthritis.
For the treatment of peptic ulcers, the flower is dried or alternatively boiled for some time, the boiled liquid is drained and mixed with some roots from the baobab tree.
According to research, the flower is also revered by some tribes who attach some cultural significance to it.
The flower is not allowed to be cut even when it grows in one’s field as a weed. Cutting the flower in one’s field is believed to affect crop yields.
The propagation generally occurs from seeds, although mature plants can be divided and grown from tubers. The hard seeds can remain dormant for six to nine months. Growth stops if temperatures are high and the flower also dies when subjected to lower temperatures. The flower is extremely fragile and delicate.
All parts of the flame lily contain colchicine, the flower is poisonous as lethal doses of colchicine from the flower has been used as a means of ending life.