The flamelily, national flower of Zimbabwe, is probably the most recognisable and universally loved symbol of our country. The striking red frilly-petaled “Gloriosa Superba” grows in the veld and aptly comes into flower at Christmas. Many an expedition was embarked upon when we were kids, riding barefoot in the open back of the farm truck to collect flamelilies with which to decorate the house and provide seasonal colour over the festive period. As Dad, like a lot of men, is red/green colour-blind, the blooms were frustratingly invisible to him, so we had to bang on the roof of the truck to get him to stop when whenever we spotted some. Farm workers’ children also scoured the bush for flowers and would arrive at the house with bundles which they shyly handed over in exchange for shiny tickies and shillings.
Justifiably, the flower is now protected and picking it in the wild is prohibited. However, it is successfully cultivated around the world, and boxes of them are clearly visible at the Dutch flower auctions at Aalsmeer. They are used extensively by florists in UK and were one of the stars at this years Hampton Court Flower Show, both in the show gardens and in the floristry marquee. And of course the fiery red of the lily looks great against the dark stone of our Shona sculptures too; a double dose of Zimbabwean beauty.