Dianella ensifolia: Dianella lily

Family: Asphodelaceae
Common name: Dianella lily, Umbrella Dracaena, Common Dianella, Flax Lily, Sword-leaf Dracaena, Cerulean Flax-lily

A small herb that has a short, much-branched stem Dianella lilies are grown as ornamental plants in gardens across the world. Leaves are green and sword-shaped, tapering at both ends, about 60-80 cms long and 2-3 cms wide. They are leathery and glossy, younger leaves standing upright and older ones bending down towards the ground.

Dianella lily plants flower almost throughout the year with long stalks that are about 60 cms long, raised high above the foliage. Flowers are white, blue or purple in color, with 3 sepals and 3 petals that look very similar and overlap with one another.

Bright yellow stamens and the style are prominently visible. Flowers are pollinated by insects, ants and bees, after which they form bright purple fruits which are about 1.5 cms in diameter. They contain 3-6 ovoid, shiny, black seeds.

Fruits are eaten by small birds and animals, that help is seed dispersal. But these seeds and other parts of the plant are toxic to mammals including humans, and are hence not considered as fodder. These hardy little plants reach a height of about 1 meter, forming clumps that look like grass, with their long blade-like leaves.

The name Dianella comes from Diana, the goddess of Greek mythology, and the name ensifolia denotes the sword-shaped leaves. The genus Dianella contains about 40 flowering plants, commonly called as flax lilies. All these plants grow in clumps, with long, blade-like leaves and bisexual flowers that contain both male and female reproductive organs.

Common variants of Dianella lily are Dianella ensifolia f. racemulifera, Dianella ensifolia f. aureovariegata, Dianella ensifolia f. albiflora, and Dianella. ensifolia f. straminea, the major difference between these variants being their foliage color.

Dianella lilies prefer full sun and moderatly fertile soil. Roots are used in treatment of worms, though the plant has some amount of toxicity. Part of the plant is used externally in the treatment of burns, wounds, itches, boils, sores, herpes, rheumatism, skin diseases and dysentery.

The deep purple fruits of Dianella lily are used to make a blue dye. Crushed roots are mixed with rice and roasted, as a pesticide to kill rats. Infusion made from the leaves is used in fumigation.

Propagation is through seeds and rhizomes.