The Gymea Lily Doryanthes excelsa is indigenous to the Sydney Basin and a truly iconic plant of the Australian bush. The botanic name, 'Doryanthes', derives from two Greek words - 'dory', meaning spear, and 'anthos', meaning flower and this refers to the beacon like flower heads that stand out in the bush. They have big spectacular flower heads, and also clumps of luxurious green leaves that make a fabulous feature in the landscape. This plant is also known as flame lily, giant lily, giant spear lily, but most commonly it's known as the Gymea lily.
Distribution and habitat
Doryanthes excelsa occurs in wood land and dry sclerophyll forest in coastal areas and adjacent mountains from Karuah to Mt Keira, New South Wales. It usually grows in soils derived from sandstone.
Gymea lilies have a rosette of large numbers of sword-shaped, strap like leaves 1–2.5m long and 10cm wide. The leaves are bright green, fibrous and glabrous.
In winter the flower spike grows from the centre of the rosette until it is up to 6m high, bearing shorter leaves up to 30cm long. At the top of the spike, a head of flowers 30cm in diameter develops, each flower being bright red, trumpet-shaped and about 10cm 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, 7–10cm long. In late summer, the capsule splits open and releases the seeds which are 15–23 mm long.
The flowers are rich in nectar, attracting a range of nectar-loving birds such as honeyeaters.
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.
Where to see the Gymea Lily in Centennial Parklands.
Sandstone Ridge along Carrington Drive