The name Gymea Lily derives from the local Eora dialect. The plant is indigenous to the coastal areas of New South Wales, where Aboriginal people used to roast the stems and roots for food.
Its botanical name, Doryanthes excelsa, means ‘exceptional spear flower’. I have seen it both in the wild and at the Botanic Gardens and it really is. Even the leaves are about a metre long but the flower spike shoots up to around six metres. I’ve yet to see one in flower and am hoping the ones in the garden might open before I leave. These sound quite exceptional too – a large cluster of crimson blossoms – first described by priest, philosopher, statesman and botanist, Jose Francisco Correia de Serra (1750 – 1823), a close friend of Sir Joseph Banks, colonial botanist extraordinaire.
Last week, inspecting a scorched (by sun or fire, I don’t know) Gymea head in the National Park, I found what I thought might be a seed. It looked suitably exceptional.
And then I put my glasses on.
My research is not conclusive but I think it might have been a male Redback spider, the female of which is nastily venomous. He’d found a perfect sleeping place in the Gymea seedpod and wasn’t bothered by my getting quite close to take the photos. When he found himself disturbed, he slowly crawled away, trailing skeins of sticky silk behind him.