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 starting with Ca are pictured on this page.
Gladiolus index - Southern African Gladiolus A-B - Southern African Gladiolus Ce-E - Southern African Gladiolus F-H - Southern African Gladiolus I-Me - Southern African Gladiolus Mi-Pa - Southern African Gladiolus Pe-R - Southern African Gladiolus S-T - Southern African Gladiolus U-Z - Gladiolus Hybrids - Miscellaneous Gladiolus
Gladiolus caeruleus (syn. Gladiolus gracilis var. latifolia) is found on limestone outcrops and calcareous sands close to the coast in the Southwest Cape. The flowers are pale blue with dark speckles on the lower tepals. It blooms in winter. Flower photos by Bob Rutemoeller, Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Werra. Corms from Telos Rare Bulbs by M. Gastil-Buhl on a 1 mm grid.
The photos below were taken by Nhu Nguyen of plants bought from Telos Rare Bulbs. The last photo shows a blue triad of this species with Moraea aristata and Tecophilaea cyanocrocus.
Gladiolus cardinalis grows on wet cliffs and waterfalls in the southwestern Cape area of South Africa and blooms in summer and is pollinated by the mountain pride butterfly. This very beautiful species was one of the parents of modern day hybrids. The first photo was taken by Rod Saunders. The second photo from Rachel Saunders was taken January 2013 where it grows in a waterfall which plunges down the side of the mountain off a cliff which is probably 500 m high.
Gladiolus carinatus is found on sandstone slopes or deep coastal sands in many areas of the Cape. It flowers late winter to spring and can be blue to violet or yellow, rarely pink, often with yellow markings on the lower tepals. The first photo was taken September 2001 in the southwest Cape and the second shows the flower of a plant grown from seed and blooming March 2004. The first two photos were taken by Mary Sue Ittner and the second two by Bob Werra.
The first photo below is a habitat shot taken in the western Cape near Hopefield. The yellow form in the second photo is from a plant raised from seed by Rhoda McMaster. Both photographed by Cameron McMaster. The third photo is from Rod Saunders. The last three photos from Alan Horstmann show different forms.
Gladiolus carmineus is a narrow endemic of the southwestern Cape coast (winter rainfall) where it grows on rocky sandstone cliffs within the sight of the sea. Flowers appear in the fall (mid February to April) and are pale to deep pink. Each of the lower three tepals and sometimes the upper lateral tepals have a median whitish steak surrounded by a pale mauve halo. There are three to five reduced leaves on the flowering stem. Foliage leaves produced by plants that did not flower appear later and are long and trailing, 8 to 10 mm wide, glaucous with a lightly thickened midrib. They grow during the wet winter and spring, drying off in late spring.
Some PBS members report that they get better results from this bulb in pots if watering is started in late summer (August in California). Others report that it blooms reliably in dry ground even if given no supplemental water. You may need to experiment to see what works best in your climate. It is definitely easier to grow in coastal climates. It has naturalized in the coastal Northern California garden of Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner. They scatter seeds about after the pods split open. The first four photos were taken in this garden. The third shows the long narrow foliage leaves of a clump in February 2014. The fourth is a closer view of a leaf. Mary Sue was asked why these leaves look different than the ones in Nhu's photo below. She did a tour of her garden and found leaves of different widths, some curled, some upright, and some flat. So it may depend on how and where the plants are growing as well as how old they are. Photo 5 was taken in September, 2005 by David Victor, which flowers in the UK during September, followed later by the foliage. Flower stems and foliage are grey-green. David's plants holds typically four or five flowers on a spike. The last photo is from the summer hemisphere and was taken by Bill Dijk.
Photos taken in habitat near Hermanus, South Africa by Cameron McMaster.
Gladiolus carneus F.Delaroche (syn. G. blandus Aiton ) has a wide distribution in the winter rainfall area of southern Africa and is found in a variety of habitats. It is a variable species that grows to about 50 cm with white to pink large flowers usually with dark spade shaped markings on the three lower lobes. It flowers late spring. This one seeds set very easily and also increases by cormlets. Photos taken in the wild, the first by Cameron McMaster in the Overberg and photos two and three by Andrew Harvie in Table Mountain National Park. Photo four is from the book Plants of the Klein Karoo courtesy of Jan and Anne Lise Schutte-Vlok. The last two photos are close-ups taken by Alan Horstmann.
The first photo was taken by Doug Westfall. The second one was taken June 2003 in Northern California of plants grown from seed, photo by Mary Sue Ittner. The third photo was taken by Jana Ulmer of plants grown from the same seed batch as the picture above. In 2004 both her population and Mary Sue's produced a lot of flowers that bloomed a very long time. Another form has been a reliable bloomer in our Northern California garden where it is planted in the ground and returns each year. Photo four by Bob Rutemoeller. Fifth photo is of an unmarked form, by Gordon Summerfield. Photo of seed on a 10 mm grid by David Pilling
Gladiolus caryophyllaceus grows on sandstone flats and slopes in the winter rainfall area, blooms winter to spring and has large pink to mauve flowers that are speckled on the lower tepals and fragrant. This species has naturalized in Western Australia, but in my Northern California garden I have had no increase at all. Photos by Mary Sue Ittner, Bob Werra, Alan Horstmann and the last two habitat shots by Andrew Harvie taken east of Koebeeberge in the western Cape.
More habitat shots from Alan Horstmann taken in the Western Cape.
Gladiolus cataractarum is a rare endemic of the southern African summer rainfall region. Plants grow on cliffs and steep rocky slopes on quartzite in sheltered, south facing sites. Growing to 70 cm high, this species has eight to nine lanceolate leaves of different sizes and pink unscented flowers with the lower three tepals marked with reddish longitudinal lines. The first photo of the plant in habitat taken by Rod Saunders. Flower photos from Rachel Saunders. They had to walk up a gully to reach it and found it difficult to photograph hanging off the cliff.
Gladiolus index - Southern African Gladiolus A-B - Southern African Gladiolus Ce-E - Southern African Gladiolus F-H - Southern African Gladiolus I-Me -- Southern African Gladiolus Mi-Pa - Southern African Gladiolus Pe-R - Southern African Gladiolus S-T - Southern African Gladiolus U-Z - Gladiolus Hybrids - Miscellaneous Gladiolus