The Flame Lily – Zimbabwe’s national flower

The Flame Lily – Zimbabwe’s national flower

The Flame lily, Gloriosa supurba, is Zimbabwe’s national plant and the Latin name is a fitting description – Gloriosa means “glorious” or “famous” and supurba means “superb” or “splendid.”

The striking red to orange flowers marked with yellow at the base resemble flames which give the plant its common name. The Flame lily also has six long stamens that in summer are coated with bright yellow pollen.

The plant is a climber which grows to over 1.5 metres (4 ft 11) tall, but its stems can spread for four metres (over 13 ft)

It is found naturally in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Madagascar but its beauty has resulted in the Flame lily becoming a sought-after garden plant in many parts of the world. In Australia the plant, because it is not indigenous, is considered a problem weed.

Many colour variants, ranging from plum through to yellow, are found in various parts of Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

Although most parts of the plant are toxic it is used in carefully controlled quantities by  traditional healers in both Africa and Asia for treating a wide range of ailments and diseases.

The plant is known by various names around the world including the Glory lily, the Climbing lily and Superb lily, and in Zimbabwe it is also known as Amakukhulume (Ndebele) Kajongwe (Shona) Matalamanda (Tonga).

Mike Cadman

Mike has worked as a journalist for a variety of international and local media organisations as well as environmental NGO’s for the past 38 years and is the author of five books. During his career, he has covered all major news developments in southern Africa and has travelled extensively throughout many parts of the continent. He spends as much time as possible in the bush and has extensive knowledge of broader environmental issues as well as the creatures that live there.