European Gladiolus

Mary Sue Ittner
Tue, 22 Jun 2004 07:04:06 PDT
Dear All,

Sorting these out seems to be a perennial problem as it is something that 
is often discussed. I remembered one particular discussion and looked for 
it in my personal archives. In May 1999 John Grimshaw posted on another 
list the key from Flora Europaea. To save him having to write all this over 
again, I am reposting his message. I took pictures of mine blooming this 
year, but the birds stole one of the tags and I wasn't sure which one it 
was and didn't look for his key at the time. So those pictures never made 
it to the wiki, but if people liked I could add some to the Gladiolus page 
and we could all puzzle over them. We also saw a nice row of them in Kew, 
but as much as I looked I couldn't find a label even though most things 
were labeled. Maybe they just volunteered?  Any dna on these? Maybe someone 
will lump them together one day.

Mary Sue
 From John Grimshaw, May 1999

The European gladioli are not nearly as wonderful as the South African 
species, but they are very pretty and worthwhile garden plants 
nevertheless. All are variations on a theme of bright reddish-purple with 
white stripes on the lower segments, but they vary considerably in stature 
and flower density etc.

Here's the key from Flora Europaea:

1 Anthers longer than filaments (or aborted): seeds not winged = G. italicus
1 Anthers equalling or shorter than filaments; seeds winged

2 Spike dense; hypanthial tube strongly curved; lowest leaf obtuse = G. 
2 Spike lax; hypanthial tube slightly curved; lowest leaf narrowing 
gradually to an acute apex

3 Spike more or less distichous, with 3-20 flowers; axillary branches often 
= G. illyricus group
3 spike strongly secund, with not more than 6 flowers; axillary branches 
= G. palustris

The G. illyricus group consists of G. illyricus and G. communis and these 
are distinguished thus:

Plant 25-50 cm high; leaves 10-40 cm x 4-10 mm; spike 3-10-flowered,rarely 
branched; perianth segments 25-40 x 6-16 mm = G. illyricus

Plant 50-100 cm, lvs 30-70 cm x 5-22 mm; spike 10-20-fld, frequently 
branched; perianth segs 30-45 x 10-25 mm = G. communis

There are further minor species allied to G. illyricus  - G. reuteri from 
Spain with very narrow leaves, and G. glaucus from Greece is very dwarf 
(sounds interesting). I discover that the British native G. illyricus is 
all triploid; it is very rare and confined to the New Forest, a warm sandy 
district in southern England. I have been growing G. illyricus from seed 
and the first has just bloomed - a pretty, dainty thing.

Of G. communis, Flora Europaea recognises two subspecies ssp. communis and 
ssp. byzantinus differing mostly in size and colour - communis is smaller & 
paler, byzantinus taller & darker and comes from S. Spain, Sicily and North 
Africa. It is the one commonly grown in gardens here and is in full flower 
now, providing a rather vulgar burst of colour - although yesterday I was 
complimented by a garden visitor on a fortuitous combination of the glad 
with the striped Bourbon rose ' Commandant Beaurepaire'. I preferred to see 
the gladiolus with the soft blue of an adjacent Campanula persicifolia!  G. 
communis is often rather tender in cultivation in Britain and even 
byzantinus is usually seen only in southern gardens. 

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