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The Flame Lily’s Life, Renewal and Rebirth: Zimbabwe in Green Splendour

With the magnificence of the Zambezi River comes the glory and splendour of many beautiful things – like the Flame Lily. And, life has been kind to us and allowed us to live in the only country that has all three sections of the majestic Zambezi River. You may know these areas by their common names Victoria Falls (upper Zambezi), Lake Kariba (middle Zambezi) and Mana Pools (Lower Zambezi). Of course, the country we are talking about is Zimbabwe. Even though you can enjoy sections of the Zambezi like the Chobe in neighbouring Namibia and Botswana, it is only in the pristinely positioned Zimbabwe that you will be treated to ALL that the massive river has to offer.

The Flame lily flower
Gloriosa superba Rothschildiana

Beautiful Death Along the Zambezi

The Flame Lily (Gloriosa superba) is Zimbabwe’s national flower. When you visit Zimbabwe just before the rains you will have a hard time locating this wildflower. The national emblem is a perennial flower which means it comes back every year. It seemingly dies while it continues to live on.

Even though the plant looks dead, the tuber underground continues to survive.

So why the heading “beautiful death”? Well, this is because the flame lily’s entire plant structure from roots to flower is filled with colchicine, a very toxic alkaloid. The plant is responsible for many accidental deaths and intentional abortions (you will read later about its amazing medicinal powers at different stages of its maturity)


Rains come with a rejuvenation of the African wilderness. Likewise, every rainy season renews the beauty of the flame lily. Moisture from the rains causes the tuber to spring back to life to produce the beautiful “flaming” flower we enjoy.

It is illegal to harvest this unique plant in Zimbabwe. Legislation protects the country’s national flower from destruction. However, this is a renewal of old principles, many Southern African tribes attach a lot of cultural significance to the flower. In some regions, farmers are not allowed to cut down the flower even when it grows as a weed in their field.

Rebirth with the Flame Lily

Like all things on the face of our planet, even this national beauty must face death. The delicate flame lily flower quickly dies as conditions become unfavourable. But the plant only “dies” after producing seeds that can be blown in the wind to start a new colony. The seed will be dormant for 6-9 months waiting for the rains so that it can continue its life cycle.

We refer to this flower as unique above because the plant not only has the power to take life but it is said to also give life. Many societies who have evolved with the flower will tell of the many medicinal uses of this flower. They say the flower helps infertile women, and treats gout, kidney problems, cholera, as well as, intestinal worms.

Zimbabwe tours with Zambezi Cruise and Safaris do not guarantee you will see this flower (we are not cultivating them). But yes, you will enjoy an insightful tour of Zimbabwe’s beautiful treasures. Take up any one of our circuits for an unforgettable trip to Africa.

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The Flame Lily’s Life, Renewal and Rebirth: Zimbabwe in Green Splendour

The Flame Lily’s Life, Renewal and Rebirth: Zimbabwe in Green Splendour
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