Doryanthes excelsa (Spear Lily)
Scientific Name: Doryanthes excelsa
Common Name: Spear Lily, Gymea Lily
Doryanthes excelsa is a flowering plant indigenous to the coastal areas of New South Wales near Sydney.
Each plant grows from a thickened underground stem which is gradually pulled deeper and deeper into the ground by the roots contracting during periods of dry weather.
The plant forms a large clump with numerous sword-like fibrous leaves, to 1 m in length and up to 100 mm wide. The red, trumpet-like flowers each 100 mm across are borne in a compact terminal head 300 mm in diameter on a leafy flowering stem 6 m high. For this reason, and because they are surrounded by brown bracts, the flowers are not seen clearly from the ground. Flowering occurs from September to November. The fruit is a woody capsule which splits open on ripening in January or February to release the brown, flattened and slightly winged seeds.
The name "Gymea Lily" is derived from a local Eora dialect (indigenous people of Australia,). Dory-anthes means spear-flower in Greek, and excelsa is Latin for exceptional. The Sydney suburbs of Gymea and Gymea Bay are named after the lily.
The genus Doryanthes was first described in 1802 by the Portuguese priest, statesman, philosopher and botanist José Francisco Correia de Serra (1750–1823), a close friend of Sir Joseph Banks. Doryanthes excelsa has also inspired the naming of Doryanthes, the journal of history and heritage for Southern Sydney founded by Dharawal historian Les Bursill.
Honey-eaters birds love the nectar of these large, crimson flowers on stems up to 6m tall.
Aboriginal people in the Lake Macquarie district of NSW were observed in 1836 roasting the stems, having cut them when half a meter high and as thick as a person's arm. They also roasted the roots which they made into a sort of cake to be eaten cold.
A Doryanthes excelsa can be seen on the Te Henui walkway at Position: Lat 39 3' 7.1" S Long 174 5' 22.6 E Datum WGS 84
The plant below was photographed on Frankley Road above Mill Road, New Plymouth.