|Gymea lily in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney|
Doryanthes excelsa, commonly known as gymea lily, is a flowering plant in the family, Doryanthaceae and is endemic to coastal areas of New South Wales near Sydney. It has sword-like leaves more than 1 metre (3 ft) long and when it flowers, sends up a flower spike up to 6 metres (20 ft) high. The apex of the spike bears a large cluster of bright red flowers, each 10 centimetres (4 in) across. Its common name is derived from the name given to the plant by the indigenous Eora people and the Sydney suburbs of Gymea and Gymea Bay are named after the lily.
In winter the flower spike grows from the centre of the rosette until it is up to 6 metres (20 ft) high, bearing shorter leaves up to 30 centimetres (10 in) long. At the top of the spike, a head of flowers 30 centimetres (10 in) in diameter develops, each flower being bright red, trumpet-shaped and about 10 centimetres (4 in) long. The head is surrounded by reddish-brown bracts, sometimes making it difficult to see the flowers from the ground. Flowering occurs in spring and is followed by oval-shaped reddish-brown capsules, 7–10 centimetres (3–4 in) long. In late summer, the capsule splits open and releases the seeds which are 15–23 millimetres (0.6–0.9 in) long.
Taxonomy and naming
Doryanthes excelsa was first formally described in 1802 by the Portuguese polymath, José Correia da Serra from the type specimen collected by George Bass "in mountainous parts of the colony of N.S.W.". The description was published in Transactions of the Linnean Society of London. The genus name (Doryanthes) is derived from the Ancient Greek δόρυ (dóru) meaning a "spear", "lance" or "pole" and ἄνθος (ánthos) meaning "a flower". The specific epithet (excelsa) is a Latin word meaning "elevated" or "high". Doryanthes excelsa and Doryanthes palmeri are the only two members of the family Doryanthaceae.
Distribution and habitat
Aboriginal people roasted the young stems of gymea lily for eating. They also roasted the roots to make a kind of cake. Fibres from the leaves were used for making brushes and matting.
Gymea lilies are hardy and adaptable plants often used in landscape gardening, not only in the Sydney region but also in other coastal areas such as Brisbane and Perth. Plants can be grown from seed but may not flower for up to eight years. Flowering can be encouraged by fire and by carefully placing a stone in the centre of the rosette.
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- Correia da Serra, Jose (1802). "On the Doryanthes, a new genus of plants from new Holland". Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 6: 211–213. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- "δόρυ". Wiktionary. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- "ἄνθος". Wiktionary. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- "excelsus". Wiktionary. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- "A Southern Sydney Journal of History, Heritage and the Arts". Doryanthes. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- "Aboriginal plant use in S.E. Australia". Australian National Botanic Garden. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- "Doryanthes excelsa". Australian Native Plants Society Australia. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- "Fact Sheet: Gymea Lilies". Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Gardening Australia. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
Australian native growing in Heathcote National Park, Sydney