There are only 2 species in this genus: Doryanthes exelsa and D. palmeri, and both are only found around Sydney and on the Central and Northern coasts of NSW. The flowers are probably the largest used in floristry. The flower spikes can reach up to 8 metres in height and 66cm in width, but are usually sold as 3 to 4 metre spikes. The flowers are up to 70 cm across and red on the outside with a pink centre, but white forms also exist. There can be as many as 150 flowers on a single inflorescence. Each plant usually only produces one to two inflorescences in one season and individual inflorescences can take up to two years to mature. Plants can take up to 10 years to produce a flowering stem.
Gymea is often picked from naturally occurring plants growing on private property, but some have been illegally bush-picked in the past. Plantations have been established recently. All supplies come from NSW.
What to look for
- Buy when the red buds at the top of the flower-head have extended out and are beginning to open;
- Avoid stems with tight flower-heads or dry open flowers.
- Keep cool at all times – if you can!
- Recut at least 4 to 5 cm off each stem with a saw and place in water immediately.
- Always use a preservative as this will help buds to open.
- Replace vase water with fresh preservative every 1 to 2 days.
- Flowers will continue to open as long as the stem is in water.
Interesting Facts about this Flower
In 1836, aboriginal people in the Lake Macquarie district of NSW were observed roasting the immature stems. They cut them when the stems were about 50cm 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
Botanical Name: Doryanthes exelsa
Common Names: Giant Lily, Gymea, Spear Lily
Stem Length: 1 to 5m
Country of Origin: Australia