Fire Lily – Clivia miniata

Fire Lily/Bush Lily/Clivia
Fire Lily/Bush Lily/Clivia

The Bush Lily is endemic (they do not occur naturally anywhere else in the world!) to South Africa, where it grows in shady locations. In cultivation it is sometimes called the Kaffir Lily. The first specimens were sent back to England in the 1800’s from Kwazulu-Natal. During Victorian times this plant was a popular indoor plant. If the flowers are pollinated they produce a cherry sized green berry that slowly turns red.

The plant is named after Lady Florentina Clive, the granddaughter of Baron Robert Clive who founded the British Empire in India

The Zulu and South Africans treat fever with the rhizomes or underground parts of the Clivia. Another medicinal use of the Clivia miniata rhizome is as a remedy for snake bites and to relieve pain in general. The entire plant is used to ease pregnancy and childbirth. The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences in 2008 noted that an herbal remedy known as isihlambezo (made from the Clivia miniata plant) was used to treat pregnancy complaints such as indigestion, edema, infection, constipation and hypertension. An infusion of Clivia miniata leaves is used to induce labor and speed contractions. Ingesting too much can over stimulate uterine contractions and cause complications.

I first saw this plant at Longwood Botanical Gardens in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania in their Conservatory. The first specimen I saw was orange in color, with the darkest green, strap-like leaves and bunches of flowers…but it was unlabeled. It took another trip to Longwood before I found out just what this beautiful plant was.

Warning: it contains small amounts of the alkaloid lycorine, which makes it poisonous. Large quantities must be ingested to develop the symptoms of poisoning are collapse, diarrhea, paralysis, salivation, nausea, and vomiting. The roots are the most poisonous parts.

According to the ASPCA these plants are toxic to cats and dogs. Due to alkaloids (including the lycorine) they produce the symptoms of convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors, and cardiac arrhythmias in pets with large ingestions, and the earlier mentioned symptoms at lower doses.


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