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  1. 82 Photo by University NSW
  2. 82_0 Photo by Stephen Hood, Fraser ACT
  3. 82_1 Photo by Tony Rodd
  4. 108_gymea_lily_-_doryanthes_excelsa_-_by_maggie_wang__2_ Not flowering by Maggie Wang

Gymea Lily

Doryanthes excelsa


  • Giant tussock-like, rosette plant.
  • Size: up to 2.5 m high with a flower stalk up to 5 m high!
  • Leaves: long, sword-shaped and forming a clump. Each individual leaf is 1 – 2.5 m long and about 10 cm wide. Shorter leaves up to 30 cm long are found along the flower stem.
  • Flowers: located at the top of a single flower stem which grows from the centre of the tussock of leaves. The stem is 2 – 5 m high upon which the flowers form a cluster up to 70 cm in diameter. The individual flowers are bright red (or rarely white), trumpet-shaped and 10 – 16 cm long.
  • Fruit/seed: a red-brown, woody seed pod, which is 7 – 10 cm long, contains flat, brown seeds which are 1.5 – 2.5 cm long. 

What to Observe

  • First fully open single flower
  • Full flowering (record all days)
  • End of flowering (when 95% of the flowers have faded)
  • Open seed pods (record all days) - carefully observed so as not to damage the flowering stalk

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect plants to start shooting and flowering earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas, as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

When To Look

  • From spring through summer.
  • Flower stem emerges from the tussock of leaves during winter.
  • Flowers appear in spring and summer.
  • Seed pods appear after flowers.
  • Seed pods split open in January or February

Where To Look

  • It is naturally found along the east coast of New South Wales, from Newcastle to Wollongong, and also in a few isolated regions on the North Coast.
  • However, it has proven adaptable to a range of climates and is now also grown in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide
  • In open forest and woodland, and also in urban areas, in parks, gardens and along roadsides.
  • Look in urban areas, particularly in parks and along roadsides.

Gymea Lily Occurrence Map ALA



Australian Biological Resources Study 1986. Flora of Australia Volume 46. CSIRO Publishing / Australian Biological Resources Study.

Clifford HT, Conran JG and Thongpukdee A 1992. Australian Lilies: Native and Naturalised species. Australian Plants 16 (132): 354.

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  1. What Else?

    Waratah (Telopea speciosissima): has shorter leaves (8 – 28 cm long), usually with serrated edges, that don’t grow in a clump or tussock from the ground. The flower stem is also much shorter, and the flower cluster much smaller (only 7 – 10 cm in diameter).

  1. Did You Know?

    Its genus name Doryanthes (meaning spear and flower), and its species name excelsa (meaning high), both refer to its tall flower stem.

    Indigenous Australians used to roast the stems and roots of the Gymea Lily. They made the roots into a type of cake that was eaten cold.

    When grown from seed, the flowering stems take 5 – 20 years to develop.