Gladiolus watsonioides

John Grimshaw
Tue, 21 Feb 2006 13:16:09 PST
John Bryan mentioned Gladiolus watsonioides, which is one of my favourites.
It is found on the mountains of Kenya and northern Tanzania, growing from
2600 m to 3900 m (see Goldblatt, Gladiolus in Tropical Africa, for more
info). This is the upper forest through the ericaceous scrub zone: it is not
quite a true alpine, but not far off. Above the treeline (c. 2700-3000 m)
there is a frost almost every night and the plant copes with this well at
all stages of its growth. With the almost constant daylength and general
conditions through the year the plant can remain active without going
dormant: I have a picture from Mt Kenya of a clonal tuft with one stem
bearing dry old capsules, another with ripening pods, a late-flowering stem,
a fresh flowering stem and a new shoot pushing up. I have seen flowers
throughout the year on Kilimanjaro. This evergreen habit is maintained in
cultivation & the plants remain green throughout the year if kept moist, but
they can go dormant if they dry out.

There are noticeable differences between plants from different mountains.
Those on Kilimanjaro are taller and more slender as plants and in the flower
than those from Mt Kenya (formerly known as G. mackinderi). I do not believe
in the var. minor John Bryan mentions: it was based on an abnormal specimen.
The Mt Kenya plants are also a darker red in the wild, but in cultivation I
cannot see a difference. I have stocks from both mountains and they grow
equally well in a gritty, humus-rich compost in deep pots in a frost-free
greenhouse, but there is no doubt that the Mt Kenya version is the one to
grow. I've posted a picture of one that flowered here last year at…

 John Grimshaw

Dr John M. Grimshaw
Garden Manager, Colesbourne Gardens

Sycamore Cottage
Nr Cheltenham
Gloucestershire GL53 9NP


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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "John Bryan" <>
To: <>
Sent: Thursday, February 22, 1990 6:41 PM
Subject: [pbs] Gladiolus

> Dear All:
> The confusion perhaps comes from two quite similar names, Gladiolus
> watsonioides, from Kenya and N. Tanzania 24-36 inches, sometimes with 2
> stem leaves, normally 4 stiff and erect leaves, flowers bright scarlet
> with a yellow throat with a tube 1 1/2 inches long. Flowers in early
> spring, August to October in the wild. Var. minor is less than half this
> size.

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