Doryanthes palmeri

Giant Spear Lily

Family: Doryanthaceae

The Giant Spear Lily has long wide sword-like leaves in rosettes. These arise from ground level and produce numerous suckers to form a large dense clump. Leaves are 2 to 3 m long.

It normally flowers in spring. Its flower stalk is very long (up to 4 m) and is different from Doryanthes excelsa, in that the stalk droops rather than being upright and the flowers are spread further down the stem.

Multiple red or reddish-brown flowers form in panicles along the stalk (called a scape), with each flower consisting of 6 perianth segments (tepals) each about 6 cm long.
It prefers full sun and is suited to most soils.

This hardy, low maintenance monocot is only found in a small region, from Mt Warning in NSW to Mt Mistake in Queensland. It grows on cliffs and rocky hillsides in and near rainforest.

In the garden

A slow growing but fairly reliable plant that suits large gardens. Fairly drought tolerant and attracts birds and beads who love the nectar. It grows in well drained sites as far south as Melbourne and tolerates frost.

It is an excellent feature plant, particularly when in flower. Cut off dead heads when finished, although these also make a great feature.

It comes from a region with high annual rainfall (1600– 2500 mm) and so responds well to extra watering.

Flower spikes often take a number of years to actually flower (10 according to some sources).


Can be propagated from seed or by dividing the clump. However, as it grows as a bulb with contractile roots (to protect the plant from fire and drought) it may need fire to germinate.

Other information

Doryanthes palmeri was used by Aboriginal people both roasting the flower spikes and the roots mashed and made into cakes. The leaves were used for seaving

Doryanthes — from two Greek words; doratos meaning spear and anthos which means flower.

palmeri — derivation not stated by the original author of the name but given in subsequent references as honouring Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer (1819-1898), a former Premier of Queensland.

It is listed as threatened in the wild (classified as vulnerable) due to its limited distribution. It is threatened by weeds, frequent fire and illegal seed harvesting


‘A Horticultural Guide to Australian Plants’, 1980 – 1984, The Society for Growing Australian Plants (Qld)



By Heather Miles