Gymea Lily Christopher Tompkins/ClimateWatcher

Gymea Lily

Doryanthes excelsa

Did You Know?

  • Indigenous Australians used to roast the stems and roots; 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
FactBox Image

Giant tussock-like, rosette plant. Grows up to 2.5 m high with a flower stalk up to 5 m high!

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

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.

Fruits/Seeds

A red-brown, woody seed pod, which is 7 – 10 cm long, contains flat, brown seeds which are 1.5 – 2.5 cm long.

Species: WhatToObserve Image

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 containing seeds (record all days)

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When and Where

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

  • East coast of NSW, from Newcastle to Wollongong, and in a few isolated regions on the North Coast
  • Adaptable to a range of climates and is now found in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide
  • In open forest and woodland
  • Look in urban areas, particularly in parks, gardens and along roadsides
Species: WhatElse Image

What Else?

Similar Species

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 diameter).