In Tamil Nadu’s lush forests, there’s a very special plant called Gloriosa Superba. It’s been chosen as the official state flower.
You might also hear it called the “Glory Lily” in English or “Kalihari” in Hindi. In Tamil, this flower is commonly known as Karthigaipoo because it grows during the Tamil month of Karthigai. What’s unique about this plant is that every single part of it, from its roots to its beautiful flowers, is really harmful if people or animals touch or eat it.
Amazing Looks and Hidden Danger
The Gloriosa Superba looks incredible. Its flowers have different colours, like green, yellow, and red.
The classification of flowers based on their colour results in two distinct types: Venkanthal and Senganthal. Tubers that possess nodes are referred to as male, while those lacking nodes are termed female.
Gloriosa, a genus comprising five or six offspring, belongs to the Colchicaceae plant family. They have long, curved petals that look like flames, which is why it’s sometimes called the “Glory Lily.” But, even though it’s so pretty, it’s also very dangerous because it’s poisonous.
The glory lily is a perennial herb that can grow up to four meters in height. It features lance-shaped leaves, approximately 13-20 centimetres long, which are sessile and adorned with tendrils at their tips. The flowers of this plant are striking, with six bright red to orange petals, each about six centimetres long.
The glory lily has a superior ovary with numerous ovules and six extrorse anthers measuring up to four centimetres in length. Its fruit is a capsule, typically six to twelve centimetres long, containing red seeds. This plant is pollinated by butterflies and is not self-incompatible.
Valuable for medicine and Beauty
Surprisingly, this dangerous plant is valuable in the world of medicine. People use its seeds and tubers to make medicines. These medicines can help with problems like asthma, piles, indigestion, fever, snake bites, and infections.
They can even help with skin issues, leprosy, and getting rid of parasites inside the body. People have been using this plant in traditional medicine for a very long time, and now scientists are discovering more ways it can help.
Besides medicine, Gloriosa Superba is also loved for its beauty. Gardeners all around the world grow it because of its striking looks and the unique way it grows. Even though it’s a bit risky to have around, its history in traditional medicine and its beauty make it popular all over the world.
When Does it Bloom?
In Tamil Nadu, people call this flower “Karthigai Poo.” It only blooms during a special time, which is the rainy season from October to December.
There is a month called Karthigai from mid-November to mid-December when it rains a lot because of the North East monsoons. That is when Gloriosa Superba comes to life with its fiery blossoms. After about 160-180 days from when its roots start growing, it’s time to harvest the fruits.
Where can we find it?
You can find Gloriosa Superba in places like Africa and some tropical Asian countries, including Malaysia, Burma, Sri Lanka, and India. In India, it’s more common in the western parts like Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. But in places like Uttar Pradesh, it’s quite rare. Tamil Nadu’s farmers are a big part of the world’s Gloriosa Superba production, supplying between 800 to 1000 tonnes each year.
India also sends a lot of it to other countries. But lately, growing this plant has been a bit tough. There was no cultivation last year because of a drought, and this year, only 200 acres have been used for growing it.
Cure for Cancer
Senganthal flowers have exhibited remarkable medicinal properties, potentially offering a cure for cancer. Within the seeds and tubers of this red plant, significant quantities of Chloroquine and Colchicine are found, which hold the potential to inhibit the spread of cancer.
Professors Saradadevi and Gurusaravanan, Bharathiar emphasized that existing cancer drugs not only target cancer-affected cells but also harm healthy cells.
However, the silver nanoparticles present in the tuber extract of the red plant play a pivotal role. They facilitate white blood cells in the efficient identification and elimination of cancer-affected cells, offering a promising avenue for cancer recovery.
Furthermore, these silver nanoparticles serve as guardians, shielding non-cancerous cells from damage. In the initial stage, successful experiments involving the injection of these nanoparticles into mice have been conducted. Nevertheless, it will require several years of further research and development before these nanoparticles can be applied for human use.