KNOW YOUR PLANTS- MALABAR GLORY LILY

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Distribution: The Glory Lily grows throughout India, upto an elevation of 1800m in low jungles.

Description: It is a climbing lily, with tuberous roots, ascending by means of “finger tip” tendrils at the end of the smooth, green, lanceolate leaves. The flowers are very showy, waxy edged, crimson petaloid segments, which bend backwards to reveal their yellow bases and long extruding stamens.

Flowering time: Summer

Propagation: By offsets of the tubers when the plant is dormant.

Properties/Use: The root like rhizome is acrid, bitter, abortifacient and emetic. They are useful in vitated conditions of kapha and vaata inflammations, ulcers, parasitic skin diseases, flatulence and intermittent fevers. It is useful in promoting labour pain and expulsion,

The lily in literature

Poets have always had their own style of comparing/ describing nature. Several citations can be had from Tamil literature, one of which is

Mulitayir pisaintha kaanthal melviral
Kazuvuru kalingang kaya athudi ik
Kuvalai unkan kuypugai kamayath
Thaanruyan thetta thimpulip pagar
Enithenak kanava nuntalin
Nunnithin magiynthan renmuthen

The aesthetic sense of the poet is picturised in this poem. He has described the condition of the heroine in the kitchen while preparing the seasoned buttermilk for her husband. The poet compares the tenderness in her fingers to that of the glory lily. This stanza is from the Kurunthogai, written by Koodalurkizhar. Melaivelthiththan and Paanar have also described the forest vegetation dominated by the Gloriosa. Through this we come to know that the lily had beautified the forests in the Sangam period. Poets like Karuvur Kathapillai Killimangalankizhar and Kabilar have described the lily as a fencing plant. Thipputholar handled this in a different way. He compares the reddish colour of the flower to a river of blood. One other interesting comparison made by Madurai Aruvai Vaanigan Ilavettan Perungannan is that the scarlet, fringy and waxy edged petal resembles a snake.

Fig 2-Fig 3

(Courtesy: https://wimastergardener.org/article/gloriosa-lily-gloriosa-superba/)

Current status

Today, the distribution of the Glory lily is near threatened and regional. For these reasons, it is featured in the Red List of the medicinal plant species of Southern India.

Conservation of this desperate and widely separated population is therefore possible only through conservation both at in-situ and ex-situ levels.

Taking into consideration its literature, medicinal value and endangered status, and the fact that   it is the state flower of Tamilnadu, it becomes our duty to know and protect the plant for its values.

Jayanthi Rengun
Blue  Cross  of  India

Source: Eco News, Vol.8, No.1, April – June 2002.

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