Gloriosa superba L.

Last updated: 17 May 2016

Scientific Name

Gloriosa superba L.


Clinostylis speciosa Hochst., Eugone superba (L.) Salisb., Gloriosa abyssinica A.Rich., Gloriosa angulata Schumach., Gloriosa caerulea Mill., Gloriosa carsonii Baker, Gloriosa cirrhifolia Stokes, Gloriosa doniana Schult. & Schult.f., Gloriosa grandiflora (Hook.) O'Brien, Gloriosa homblei De Wild., Gloriosa leopoldii (Van Houtte ex Lem.) Van Houtte & Voss, Gloriosa lutea auct., Gloriosa nepalensis G.Don, Gloriosa plantii (Planch.) Loudon, Gloriosa rockefelleriana Stehlé & M.Stehlé, Gloriosa rothschildiana O'Brien, Gloriosa sampiana Pires de Lima, Gloriosa simplex L., Gloriosa speciosa (Hochst.) Engl., Gloriosa verschuurii Hoog, Gloriosa virescens Lindl., Methonica abyssinica (A.Rich.) Walp., Methonica doniana (Schult. & Schult.f.) Kunth, Methonica gloriosa Salisb., Methonica grandiflora Hook., Methonica leopoldii Van Houtte ex Lem., Methonica petersiana Klotzsch ex Garcke, Methonica plantii Planch., Methonica platyphylla Klotzsch, Methonica superba (L.) Crantz, Methonica virescens (Lindl.) Kunth. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Bunga kembang sonsang [2]
English Climbing lily, dragon lily, flame lily, gloriosa, gloriosa lily, glory lily, superb lily, turk’s cap [2]
India Adavi nabhi, adavinabhi, aghni shikhe, agnisikha, amrita, ananta, bajhi, barishkanda, bisha, carrihari, chukuru, dipta, dusatin, ga pushpasaurabha, garbhhagatini, kal-lawi (breeding a quarrel), kalalavi, kalappa-gadda, kandal, kalikari, kannovina gida, karianag, langala, languli, miria-phulo, nagakaria, nakta, one kilangu, pottudumpa, rabigani, shakrapushi, ulatchandal, vach nag, vasa naabhi, vishalya [2]
Indonesia Kembang sunsang (sunsang=upside down) (Bali) [2]
Thailand Dong dueng, ma khaa kong, waan kaam puu [2]
Laos Phan ma ha [2]
Cambodia Var sleng dong dang [2]
Vietnam C[aa]y ng[os]t ngh[ex]o, c[aa]y nh[us] nho[as]i [2]
Tibet La nga la, la nga li [2]
East Africa Chikongoromandiaga, erimbi, gombogombo, hamo, kandhi, kimagugu, marau, mbegebege, mberewere, mburiru, mereganamunyi, mkolwe, molok, molong, mugobogobo, mwana funzi, roheratin, tengaluangoko, vitosambili [2]
Kenya Ngipirikala [2]
South Africa Geelboslelie, rooiboslelie, vlamlelie, isimiselo, iHlamvu, iHlamvu comfana nentombhazana (Zulu) [2]
South Rhodesia Iliqude [2]
Tanzania Enjani, o-olasuria, gombo-gombo, mbalala, mbalawima, olchani loolasuria, ormusalala lao laguria [2]
Zambia Makoakoa [2]
Zimbabwe Nyakajongwe, nyan l’enkulu [2].

Geographical Distributions

Gloriosa superba is widespread over tropical Africa and Asia. [3]

Botanical Description

G. superba is a member of the Colchicaceae family. It is a climbing or erect herbaceous plant which can reach up to 4 m long. [4][5]

The stem is annual, glabrous and sparsely branched while the tuber is perennial, horizontal and sometime abruptly bent in V or L shape. [4][5]

The leaves are in whorls of 3 or 4, opposite or alternate, simple and sessile. The leaf blade is ovate or lanceolate, 4-15 cm by 1.5-4 cm, with obtuse base and apex with or without tendrils measuring 1-2 cm long. The veins run parallel. [4][5]

The flowers are axillary, solitary, bisexual, regular, 6 in numbers. The diameter is 4.5-7 cm. It is showy, pendulous with pedicel 4-20 cm long. Perianth is segment free, lanceolate or oblanceolate, 5-7 cm x 1 cm often with undulate margins, strongly reflexed when matures, persistent, usually yellow and red, less often yellow, red and white. Stamens with filaments are 2-5 cm long, spreading. Anthers 7-10 mm long, opening by longitudinal slits. Ovary is superior, 3-celled; carpels coherent only by their inner margins; style filiform, 2-4 cm long, bent at a right angle basally. [4][5]

The fruit is locuilicidal, oblong capsule 4-6 cm x 1-2 cm containing up to 20 seeds. [4][5]

The seeds are ovoid, 4-5 mm in diameter, surrounded by a fleshy, red sarcotesta. [4][5]

The roots are fibrous. [4][5]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

G. superba has been reported to contain viz colchicine, colchicoside (its semi-synthetic derivative — thiocolchicoside), superbine, gloriosine, lumicolchicine, 3-demethyl-N-deformyl-N-deacetylcolchicine, 3-demethylcolchicine, N-formyl deacetylcolchicine. [6]

Plant Part Used

Roots. [7]

Traditional Use

G. superba is a popular and attractive ornamental, sometimes planted to ward off snakes. Colchicine derived from the plant has been effectively used in the treatment of acute gout since 1763. It has many medicinal uses in different communities of the world. The roots are used to induce labour and abortion. It is considered a tonic and is also used to treat epistaxis, bruises, cancer, gonorrhoea, haemorrhoids, leprosy, impotence and syphilis. [3][7][8]

Preclinical Data

No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

The root, leaf, stem, flower and seeds. They contain the toxic compound colchicine. [7]


Colchicine and gloriosine. The seed contains the highest amount of colchicines per unit weight. The tuber contains 0.3% colchicine and a lesser amount of gloriosine. The lethal dose is 4 g of tuber. Colchicine is excreted in milk, and poisoning in humans has been reported from consuming milk derived from colchicine-poisoned livestock. As it is slowly eliminated by the body, poisoning can occur from chronic intake of subtoxic levels of the poison. Colchicine is able to withstand drying, storage and boiling, making the cooked tubers and dried seed remaining toxic. Other toxic compounds include lumicolchicine found in the flowers and superbine. [7]

Risk management

No documentation

Poisonous clinical findings

Initial symptoms include tingling, burning and subsequent numbness of the lips, mouth and throat which may appear immediately or delayed for as long as 48 hours. Dysphagia and feeling of strangulation may be present. They may be feelings of intense thirst and sometime violent vomiting followed by abdominal pain and diarrhoea which can be severe and bloody to the extent of causing dehydration. [7]

Delayed symptoms, appearing several days after, include numbness and weakness of extremeties, photophobia, low blood pressure and weak rapid pulse, oliguria to anuria, gradual ascending paralysis with loss of deep tendon reflexes. This will eventually lead to death due to respiratory failure. Temperature control becomes erratic leading to subnormal temperatures 20 to 4 hours before death. There can also be convulsions leading to coma, or shock due to fluid volume depletion. Bone marrow depression occurs within 4-5 days, this is followed by hair loss occurring within 12 days. All these are reversible after a month in survivors. [7]


No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Glariosa superba L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2013 Mar 23; cited 2016 May 4]. Available from :
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 345-346.
  3. Hanelt P. Mansfeld’s encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops. Berlin, Springer; 2001; p. 2285
  4. Schmelzer GH, Gurib-Fakim A, editors. Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 11(1): Medicinal plants 1. Wageningen, Netherlands: PROTA Foundation/Backhuys Publishers/CTA, 2008; p. 309-314.
  5. Chauhan NS. Medicinal and aromatic plants of Hamichal Pradesh. New Delhi: Indus Publishing, 1999; p. 212.
  6. Jana S, Shekhawat GS. Critical review on medicinally potent plant species: Gloriosa superba. Fitoterapia. 2011;82(3):293-301.
  7. Nellis DW. Poisonous plants and animals of Florida and the Caribbean. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, 1997; p. 207-209.
  8. Nelson LS, Shih RD, Balick MJ. Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. 2nd ed. New York: Springer, 2007; p. 171.