Southern African Gladiolus Six

There are about 163 species of Gladiolus (with new ones being discovered) in the area south of the Tropic of Capricorn and including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique. Some are found in winter rainfall areas and some in summer rainfall areas. For more information see Goldblatt and Manning, 1998. Southern African species from Mi-Pa are pictured on this page.


Gladiolus index - Southern African gladiolus A-B - Southern African gladiolus Ca - Southern African gladiolus Ce-E - Southern African Gladiolus F-H - Southern African gladiolus I-Me - Southern African gladiolus Pe-R - Southern African gladiolus S-T - Southern African gladiolus U-Z - Gladiolus Hybrids - Miscellaneous gladiolus


Gladiolus microcarpus is endemic to the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, South Africa and Lesotho. Plants grow on rocks and steep cliffs where their stems hang downward from vertical rock faces and their stems are anchored in crevices. During the growing season the habitat is moist. Flowers are bright pink with a broad white longitudinal zone in the lower two thirds of the lower three tepals and a narrow reddish purple streak in the midline. Photos taken by Cameron McMaster at Sentinel Peak, February 2008.

Gladiolus microcarpus, Sentinel Peak, Cameron McMasterGladiolus microcarpus, Sentinel Peak, Cameron McMasterGladiolus microcarpus, Sentinel Peak, Cameron McMaster


Gladiolus miniatus is found on coastal limestone outcrops from Hermanus to Agulhas. Spring blooming flowers are salmon with red along the midline. The first photo was taken by Dirk Wallace and the second and third by Cameron McMaster at Arniston. The last two photos were taken by Mary Sue Ittner in May 2005 when they were blooming for the first time from seed in Northern California with California bulb companions Brodiaea jolonensis, Allium unifolium and Triteleia hyacinthina in bloom in the same raised bed.

Gladiolus miniatus, Dirk WallaceGladiolus miniatus, Arniston, Cameron McMasterGladiolus miniatus, Arniston, Cameron McMasterGladiolus miniatus, Mary Sue IttnerGladiolus miniatus, Mary Sue Ittner


Gladiolus monticola is found on rocky sandstone slopes in the southwestern Cape. There are populations on Table Mountain. It has pink to apricot flowers with darker pink markings on the lower tepals and blooms summer into fall before the single leaf is produced. The first two photos by Bob Rutemoeller. This first photo shows it as the only bulb blooming in one of our raised beds that only has bulbs from winter rainfall areas, blooming in July 2003 in the northern hemisphere. The leaf in the picture is of another Gladiolus that bloomed a month earlier. In the second photo we put cardboard behind the flowers to get the close-up that shows the details better. The third photo was taken years later by Mary Sue Ittner. The last photo from Rachel Saunders was taken on Table Mountain February 2011.

Gladiolus monticola, Bob RutemoellerGladiolus monticola, Bob RutemoellerGladiolus monticola, Mary Sue IttnerGladiolus monticola, Table Mountain, Rachel Saunders


Gladiolus mortonius (formerly Gladiolus ochroleucus var. macowanii) is a summer rainfall Eastern Cape species that grows in open stony grassland. Although it resembles Gladiolus ochroleucus, the long tubed pink flowers with a red median streak on the lower tepals and a few reddish longitudinal lines parallel are much larger (tube is 30-45 mm). It is a gorgeous little gladiolus that grows successfully in a pot, producing flower stems around 8-9 inches tall, with comparatively large flowers that face slightly downwards. The photo (face) is taken upwards into the flower to show detail. This has had a succession of flowers since late February (in Australia) and is now sending up another spike in mid April just as the last of the previous flowers have faded. The first three photos by Paul Tyerman and the last three taken in the Eastern Cape by Cameron McMaster February 2008.

Gladiolus mortonius, Paul TyermanGladiolus mortonius, Paul TyermanGladiolus mortonius, Paul TyermanGladiolus mortonius, Andriesberg, Cameron McMasterGladiolus mortonius, Cathcart, Cameron McMasterGladiolus mortonius, Cathcart, Cameron McMaster


Gladiolus mostertiae is found in wet sandy soils in the Bokkeveld Mountains in the Northwest Cape. Growing 25 to 30 cm high, this species has linear leaves with a thickened midrib and pale pink flowers with yellow-green markings on the lower tepals. It flowers November to December. Photo taken by Rachel Saunders November 2013 near Nieuwoudtville in a year with late rainfall so the soil was still wet when it bloomed.

Gladiolus mostertiae, Nieuwoudtville, Rachel Saunders


Gladiolus mutabilis is an Eastern Cape species and also occurs in the eastern part of the Western Cape. Plants grow in sandstone derived soils. This species has slightly fleshy leaf blades without thickened margins or midribs and an elongated corm that is two to three times as long as wide. Flower color ranges from pale to dark blue, mauve, brown or cream. The lower tepals are usually cream or yellow below with dark blue or brown dots and streaks on the yellow background forming the nectar guide. The fragrant flowers appear early in the season, June or July. The first photo was taken by Rachel Saunders who discovered this plant late July 2012 blooming in an area that had previously burned in the Western Cape. The next two photos were taken by Cameron McMaster August 2012 at the top of Potjiesberg Pass south of Uniondale (Eastern Cape) where it was growing with Gladiolus patersoniae. In the Western Cape population Gladiolus patersoniae was also in bloom raising the question of whether they are both pollinated by the same pollinator.

Gladiolus mutabilis, Rachel SaundersGladiolus mutabilis, Potjiesberg Pass, Cameron McMasterGladiolus mutabilis, Potjiesberg Pass, Cameron McMaster


Gladiolus natalensis see Gladiolus dalenii


Gladiolus ochroleucus grows in grasslands and light bush or woodland in the Eastern Cape. Flowers are either shades of pink, sometimes light purple or reddish, or whitish or yellow flushed brownish on the reverse. The lower tepals are white in the lower half sometimes with dark red-purple median streaks. The first two photos by Cameron McMaster were taken January 2008 in the Eastern Cape. Photos number three, four, and five were taken near Morgan Bay by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner.

Gladiolus ochroleucus, Cameron McMasterGladiolus ochroleucus, Cameron McMasterGladiolus ochroleucus, Morgan Bay, Bob RutemoellerGladiolus ochroleucus, Morgan Bay, Bob RutemoellerGladiolus ochroleucus, Morgan Bay, Mary Sue Ittner


Gladiolus odoratus see Gladiolus guthriei


Gladiolus oppositiflorus is found in the southern part of the summer rainfall area where it grows in open grasslands and often in rocky sites where there is some protection from predators. Flowers are salmon to pale pink or mauve, with the lower three tepals paler in the midline and having a reddish to purple median streak. This species blooms summer into fall. The first two photos by Mary Sue Ittner of a plant growing in the ground in Northern California and blooming late August-September 2004. The third photo was taken by Cameron McMaster at Maclear in the Eastern Cape February 2008.

Gladiolus oppositiflorus, Mary Sue IttnerGladiolus oppositiflorus, Mary Sue IttnerGladiolus oppositiflorus, Maclear, Cameron McMaster

A shorter-stemmed form with salmon colored flowers was described at Gladiolus salmoneus and later considered to be a subspecies of G. oppositiflorus. Although this subspecies is still recognized by Kew, Goldblatt and Manning in Gladiolus of Southern Africa did not think the differences warranted subspecies treatment. Photos of this form taken in the Eastern Cape January 2008 by Cameron McMaster.

Gladiolus oppositiflorus, Balloch, Cameron McMasterGladiolus oppositiflorus, Balloch, Cameron McMaster


Gladiolus orchidiflorus is found on clay and sandstone soils from Namibia to Cape Flats and also to Free State and flowers in the spring. It has greenish to purple flowers with dark purple markings and is very fragrant. Photos 1-2 are habitat shots taken in Namaqualand by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner September 2006. Photos 3-4 were taken near Carolusberg, Namaqualand by Cameron McMaster September 2011.

Gladiolus orchidiflorus, Namaqualand, Bob RutemoellerGladiolus orchidiflorus, Namaqualand, Mary Sue IttnerGladiolus orchidiflorus, Carolusberg, Cameron McMasterGladiolus orchidiflorus, Carolusberg, Cameron McMaster


Gladiolus overbergensis is a rare species found in the southern part of the southwestern Cape. It is reported to be found in sandy loam and fynbos or fynbos-renosterveld. Flowers are bright red with a long perianth tube which could make them adapted for pollination by sunbirds. Past names include Antholyza guthriei and Homoglossum guthriei.


Gladiolus paludosus grows in Mpumalanga in marsh and vlei habitats that are wet much of the year. It has short-tubed pink or mauve, occasionally red unscented flowers; the lower lateral tepals have a broad diamond-shaped to semicircular band of dark mauve or purple across the midline. Flowering time is mid October to mid November. It is very similar to Gladiolus crassifolius, but grows in a different habitat, flowers earlier, and has softer textured leaves and bracts. Photo taken by Rachel Saunders January 2015, much later than the usual flowering time.

Gladiolus paludosus, Rachel Saunders


Gladiolus papilio (syn. G. purpureo-auratus, G. brachyscyphus, G. spathulatus, G. schlechteri) is called the Butterfly Gladiolus, and grows in marshy ground, up to 2400 m, from the Eastern Cape to Limpopo Province. Claimed to be a hardy garden plant, grown in the UK since 1866. The first two photos were taken by Roy Herold in KwaZulu-Natal Province, near Kamberg in the foothills of the Drakensberg, in early December 2006. The third was taken by Rod Saunders. The fourth, an unusual color form was taken by Rachel Saunders in the mountains above Tzaneen, early January 2015. The last two taken in the Eastern Cape by Cameron McMaster.

Gladiolus papilio, Roy HeroldGladiolus papilio, Roy HeroldGladiolus papilio, Rod SaundersGldiolus papilio, Limpopo, Rachel SaundersGladiolus papilio, Cameron McMasterGladiolus papilio, Cameron McMaster

The first photo from John Grimshaw is of a form he labels in the "purpureoauratus" group. The second and third photos were taken by Bob Rutemoeller in the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

Gladiolus papilio, John GrimshawGladiolus papilio, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Bob RutemoellerGladiolus papilio, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Bob Rutemoeller


Gladiolus pappei grows in marshes on sandstone slopes in the southwestern Cape. It blooms in spring. This one was grown from Silverhill seeds sown in September 2001 and first blooming in June 2003. Photos by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner.

Gladiolus pappei, Bob RutemoellerGladiolus pappei, Mary Sue Ittner


Gladiolus patersoniae is widespread in the southern African winter rainfall areas. It occurs in exposed rocky habitats in the interior ranges of the Cape Floral region, but also near the coast at Cape Infanta and on stony alluvial flats near Worcester. It grows on soils derived from sandstone. The bell like short tubed and sweetly scented (similar to apple and carnation) pale to deep blue, slate, grey or cream flowers are pollinated by long tongued bees. The lower three tepals have a transverse yellow band usually outlined in dark blue or purple. Flowering occurs in late winter to spring, earlier at lower elevations. Photos by Cameron McMaster. The last photo was taken by Cameron McMaster August 2012 at the top of Potjiesberg Pass south of Uniondale (Eastern Cape) where it was growing with Gladiolus mutabilis.

Gladiolus patersoniae, Cameron McMasterGladiolus patersoniae, Cameron McMasterGladiolus patersoniae, Cameron McMasterGladiolus patersoniae, Cameron McMasterGladiolus patersoniae, Potjiesberg Pass, Cameron McMaster


Gladiolus index - Southern African gladiolus A-B - Southern African gladiolus Ca - Southern African gladiolus Ce-E - Southern African Gladiolus F-H - Southern African gladiolus I-Me - Southern African gladiolus Pe-R - Southern African gladiolus S-T - Southern African gladiolus U-Z - Gladiolus Hybrids - Miscellaneous gladiolus


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