This year’s weather conditions seem to have suited the Gladiolus family particularly well as many species are flowering profusely.
In Europe ‘Glads’ (originally South African) have been cultivated for over 250 years, they are popular garden plants and commonly used by florists around the world. The genus name Gladiolus comes from the Latin gladius, meaning sword, and refers to the shape of the leaves.
Natal Lily or African Gladiolus, Papegaaigladiolus (A), khahla-e-kholo (SS), isidwi esibomvu, uhlakahle (Z)
The banks of the uMngeni River are filled with gorgeous Gladiolus dalenii at the moment and they are also pretty spectacular along the verges of the R103.
The erect leaves are grey green and form a stiff fan shape. The tall spikes of flowers vary enormously in colour from vibrant orange, through greenish orange to a speckled brown. They spread rapidly and form large colonies in the wild. Easy to propagate, by removing offsets from the parent corms, or from seed. The leaves die back after flowering and the plant is dormant during the dry season.
The corms are a favourite food of bushpigs. Traditionally they have been used as spinning tops in children’s games. Medicinally the corms are used to treat sterility and dysentery, as good luck charms and are often found in the medicine horns of Nyangas.
Butterfly Gladiolus, Moederkappie (A), ibutha, igulusha (Z)
This pretty little plant is always spectacular in the drainage ditches in Lions River. It thrives in wetlands and damp grassland.
It is a deciduous, clump-forming perennial . The blade-shaped grey-green leaves are about 50cm tall. Throughout summer the cream and purple flowers hang on arching stems – there is a dark blotch at the base of the lower tepals.
Large speckled Gladiolus, Bloupypie (A), isidwa esincane, udwendweni (Z)
This perennial grows in grasslands of eastern South Africa. Pale creamy yellow flowers are borne in early summer. It can be seen in Howick right now – along Symmonds Stream and the uMngeni River.
The specific name sericeovillosus means silky haired. Plant hairs discourage insects from eating too much and extend leaf surfaces for cooling the plant down and reducing evaporation. The sword-like leaves are shorter than the flower stalk.