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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Genus: Gladiolus

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Asparagales > Family: Iridaceae

About 260 species, with a distribution extending from South Africa, through tropical Africa and Madagascar to Europe and the Middle East. About 178 species are found in southern Africa, mainly in the Western Cape and eastern highlands.

Species native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI), Flora of Zimbabwe and Flora of Mozambique. Summary information is mainly from Goldblatt and Manning (1998), but see individual species accounts for more details.

Gladiolus abbreviatus

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where its distribution extends from Caledon to Stormsvlei (east of Riviersonderend), southwards to near Cape Agulhas. Within this region it is found in renosterveld vegetation usually on moist, south-facing clay and shale banks, especially where the area has been heavily grazed or cleared. The short lower tepals and the reddish-coloured floral bracts are distinctive.

Gladiolus acuminatus

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, with a restricted distribution from southwest of Caledon (near Onrus) to near Bredasdorp. Grows in renosterveld vegetation at low elevations on stony shale flats and north-facing slopes. Rarely recorded. Flowers are greenish-cream to pale yellow with a 22-30 mm long perianth tube. Flowers from mid-August to late September.


Gladiolus alatus (Kalkoentjie, Red kalkoentjie)

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, the distribution covering the southwestern portion of the province, from the Bokkeveld Escarpment near Nieuwoudtville south to Cape Town and east to Bredasdorp. Plants occur mainly on stony sandstone or granitic soils, especially on thin soils and in rock crevices. It is a pioneer species, resistant to drought, that quickly colonizes disturbed areas such as road verges and field borders.

Gladiolus albens

Distribution extends from George in the Western Cape to near Alexandria in the Eastern Cape and northwards to Somerset East. Grows on grassy slopes and in low fynbos vegetation on well-drained soils. Flowers are white to cream with a 35-50 mm long perianth tube. Probably pollinated by moths. 


Gladiolus angustus (Marsh painted lady)

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, the distribution including Cape Peninsula, the West Coast as far north as about Vredenburg, inland to Piketberg and the Cedarberg. It has also been recorded from near Elim (to the west of Agulhas). The preferred habitat is streams and marshes on sandstone soils. The long perianth tube and the short lower tepals with dark red, diamond- or spade-shaped markings, are distinctive.

Gladiolus antholyzoides

Endemic to South Africa, where it occurs on the central and eastern highveld, from the eastern Free State, through Gauteng, to the Waterberg near Nylstroom in Limpopo Province. Has yellow flowers, 55-70 mm long.


Gladiolus appendiculatus

Occurs on the eastern escarpment of southern Africa, from Vryheid in northern KwaZulu-Natal, across Mpumalanga and Swaziland to Pilgrim's Rest and Mariepskop. Grows in loamy clay among dolerite rocks in montane grassland, usually above 1800 m elevation. Flowers are whitish to pale pink in a straight spike with brown-tipped overlapping bracts. Anthers are tailed.


Gladiolus aquamontanus

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it is restricted to the Swartberg mountains. Plants grow in mountain streams and on wet cliffs. Flowers are mauve-pink with long tubes; probably pollinated by long-tongued flies.


Gladiolus arcuatus (Kalkoenuintjie, Brown kalkoentjie)

Endemic to South Africa, occurring from the lower Olifants River valley between Klawer and Vredendal (Western Cape) northwards to Steinkopf in northern Namaqualand (Northern Cape), and including the high country around Springbok and the Kamiesberg. Plants grow in coarse-grained granite-derived gravel and also in fine-grained silt. Flowers are a combination of purple and dull green in colour and have a sweet scent. They  attract bees such as Apis mellifera (Honeybee) and Anthophora.


Gladiolus atropictus

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it has a very restricted distribution on the northern dry slopes of the Riviersonderend Mountains, near McGregor. The sweet-scented flowers are dark blue-violet in colour, with lower tepals pale yellow below and marked with dark purple lines in a feathery pattern. Probably pollinated by long-tongued bees.


Gladiolus atropurpureus

A tropical African species with a distribution including Angola, Burundi, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Occurs in deciduous woodland and low montane grassland, sometimes on rocky outcrops.

Gladiolus aurantiacus

Distribution extends from Richmond in KwaZulu-Natal to southern Mpumalanga and Swaziland, where it occurs in grassland on moist, stony ground. Flowers are a deep yellow, dotted or streaked with red or orange. The perianth tube is 44-70 mm long.


Gladiolus aureus

Endemic to the Cape Peninsula, Western Cape, South Africa where it is restricted to mountain slopes near Kommetjie and Simonstown. Plants grow in seeps, where the peaty sand remains wet well into Spring.

Gladiolus bilineatus

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it is restricted to the lower southern slopes of the Langeberg, from Tradouw Pass in the west to the foot of the mountains north of Riversdale and Albertinia. Habitat ranges from true fynbos (in Tradouw Pass) to renosterveld (elsewhere). Flowers are  cream to pink with a long perianth tube. They are pollinated by the nemestrinid fly Prosoeca longipennis.


Gladiolus blommesteinii

A rare species, endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it occurs from Hottentots Holland and Kogelberg mountains eastwards to Riviersonderend, its distribution including Sir Lowry's Pass and Franschhoek Pass. Grows in mountain fynbos in rocky sandstone-derived soils. Flowers from August to mid-October, mainly within the first two seasons after fire. Flowers pale blue or pale pink with purple-streaked nectar guides. Leaves are thin and elongate.


Gladiolus bonaspei

Endemic to the Cape Peninsula, Western Cape, South Africa, where it occurs on the sandy plains south of Klaasjagersberg, on the Redhill Plateau and on the Silvermine Plateau.

Gladiolus brachyphyllus

Occurs in the lowveld of eastern southern Africa, from Klaserie in the north, through the central and southeastern regions of the Kruger National Park, to as far south as Tshaneni in Swaziland. Flowers are deep pink.


Gladiolus brevifolius (March pypie, Autumn pipes)

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, occurring in the southwestern parts, from Piketberg to the Cape Peninsula and eastwards to the Agulhas plain and to Montagu. A common autumn flowering species in this region. Grows in a wide range of soil types from sand to clay.

Gladiolus brevitubus

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, occurring from the Hottentots Holland Mountains in the west to Riviersonderend in the east and to the the Klein River Mountains in the south. Grows on rocky mountain slopes in sandy soil, at elevations ranging from 200-1500 m. Flowers are bright orange with a short perianth tube and do not contain nectar. They appear to be pollinated by pollen-collecting halictid bees.


Gladiolus buckerveldii

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, with a distribution restricted to the northern Cedarberg. Plants grow on moist, moss-covered cliffs with the flowring stems growing out almost horizontally and the leaves drooping down.

Gladiolus bullatus (Caledon bell)

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, with a distribution from Houw Hoek and Kogelberg in the west to Bredasdorp and Potberg (near Cape Infanta) in the east. Grows in low-growing fynbos vegetation, mainly in stony sandstone-derived soils, but also on limestone outcrops.

Gladiolus caeruleus

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it has a very restricted distribution on the West Coast, extending from Yzerfontein in the south to the hills above Cape Columbine (north of Saldanha Bay). Flowers pale blue, speckled with dark purple against a cream background on the lower three tepals. Probably pollinated by long-tongued bees.


Gladiolus calcaratus

Occurs on the eastern escarpment of Mpumalanga, from Dullstroom and Kemp's Heights in the south to Mount Sheba (near Robber's Pass above Pilgrim's Rest) in the north, thus including Long Tom Pass. Grows mainly in deeper soils at wet sites, such as around damp depressions. Pollinated mainly by the long-tongued fly Prosoeca robusta (Nemestrinidae). Flowers white, with pale yellow in the throat; older flowers develop a pink to lilac hue.


Gladiolus cardinalis (New Year lily, Waterfall gladiolus)

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it occurs next to waterfalls and on wet cliffs in the mountains from Bain's Kloof to the Riviersonderend Mountains.

Gladiolus carinatus (Blue Afrikaner, Sandpypie)

Distribution is mainly coastal, from central Namaqualand (Northern Cape) southwards to Cape Town and from there eastwards to the Knysna vicinity. However, it also occurs in more mountainous areas inland from the West Coast. It grows mainly in well drained, sandy soils on coastal flats, in areas dominated by restio tussocks, often growing in the restio clump. It also grows on stony mountain slopes up to 1000 m elevation.

Gladiolus carmineus (Cliff gladiolus, Hermanus gladiolus)

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it has a restricted coastal distribution from Pringle Bay in the west to Cape Infanta in the east. Plants grown within sight of the sea on outcrops of sandstone, often on cliffs.

Gladiolus carneus (Painted lady, White Afrikaner)

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa. Within this province it occurs in the southern regions from Cape Town to the Outeniqua Mountains (north of Knysna), and as far north as Bain's Kloof, and the Witsenberg and Skurweberg complex north of Ceres. Occurs on the lower slopes, growing in either shale or sandstone derived soils, but always in fynbos or on forest margins. Flowers particularly well after a fire or bush clearing.

Gladiolus caryophyllaceus (Large pink Afrikaner, Sandveldlelie)

Limited to the Western Cape and Northern Cape, South Africa, occurring from southern Namaqualand (on the granite ridges inland from the coast) to Mamre (just north of Cape Town) and inland to the Bokkeveld Escarpment, Cedarberg and Hex River Mountains. It has also been recorded far further east in the Swartberg. Found in dry habitats, often on open stony ground in well-drained soils. Often grows in dense clumps of restios. Flowers are pale to deep pink, mauve or cream-coloured.


Gladiolus cataractarum

A rare endemic to the eastern escarpment of Mpumalanga, South Africa, occurring from near Lunsklip Waterfall (south of Dullstroom) to 10 km further north (towards Lydenburg). Plants grow on south-facing steep rocky slopes and cliffs, on quartzite. Flowers are long-tubed and pink, possibly pollinated by long-tongued nemestrinid flies (but no observations of this yet).


Gladiolus ceresianus

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it occurs in the interior from the Cold Bokkeveld north of Ceres, eastwards to Matjiesfontein and then north to the high Roggeveld Escarpment near Middelpos. Also recorded from Hol River, near Vredendal. Flowers a complex pattern of mainly purple, yellow and brown.


Gladiolus comptonii

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it is known from only one locality, the Heerenlogement Mountain at the northwestern end of the Olifants River Mountains. Plants grow in mountain fynbos vegetation on the upper slopes from 600-700 m elevation.

Gladiolus crassifolius (Thick-leaved gladiolus)

Has a broad distribution that includes soutwestern Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, western Angola, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. In southern Africa, it occurs from Limpopo Province, south to Elliot in the Eastern Cape. It also occurs to the west as far as Krugersdorp and Rustenburg. Plants grow in grasslands on well-drained rocky hillsides.

Gladiolus crispulatus

A rare endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, occurring only in the Langeberg, from Swellendam to Riversdale. Flowers mainly in the first two years after fire. Flowers are deep pink with a dark red, median streak on each of the lower tepals. Flowers mainly from November to December.


Gladiolus cruentus (Blood-red gladiolus, Rooigladiolus, Rooiswardlelie)

Endemic to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where it occurs in the sandstone belt from Gilletts and Kloof in the south to the Noodsberg and Kranskop in the north. Plants grow on wet, sandstone cliffs. Flowers are bright red, with white on the lower tepals. Flowers from mid-January to early March.


Gladiolus cunonius (Lepelblom)

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it has a coastal distribution extending from Saldanha Bay on the West Coast, round the Cape Peninsula, to Knysna in the east. Plants grow in coarse coastal sands in open areas among coastal scrub, often just above high water mark or on vegetated sand dunes a short distance inland.

Gladiolus cylindraceus

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it has a restricted distribution mainly in the Ceres District, from Mosterthoek Peaks (south of Mitchell's Pass), northward along the Witzenberg and Skurweberg ranges to Sneeugat and the Groot Winterhoek Peaks. Occurs as far east as Waboomsberg (northeast of Ceres). A montane species, growing above 1500 m elevation in low growing fynbos on rocky sandstone slopes and ridges. Flowers pale creamy pink to salmon with reddish diamond-shaped on the lower tepals. Flowers from mid-December to late January.


Gladiolus dalenii (Dragon's head lily, Parrot lily, Natal lily, Sword lily, African gladiolus)

Throughout the grasslands, savannas and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Its distribution also entends to the highlands of southwestern Arabia and Madagascar. Most common in fairly moist habitats, especially in hilly country and upland grasslands. Flower colours range from red to orange and yellow to greenish. One of the main species contributing to Gladiolus hybrid cultivars.

Gladiolus debilis (Painted lady)

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it occurs from the Cape Peninsula to Bain's Kloof in the northeast, and to Bredasdorp in the east. Plants grown in fynbos on rocky sandstone slopes. Flower mainly in the first two to three years after a fire.

Gladiolus decoratus

Native to Tanzania, DRC, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique.

Gladiolus delpierrei

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where there is only one known population, in the Cedarberg on Sneeuberg and adjacent peaks. Discovered as recently as 1975, by Georges Delpierre, a mathematician and bulb enthusiast. Flowers creamy yellow with red streaks; lower petals dark yellow at the base. Flowers in December and early January.


Gladiolus densiflorus

Occurs in the lowveld and coastal regions of southern Africa, from Tate Vondo in Limpopo Province, South Africa, through the Mpumalanga lowveld, Swaziland, coastal Mozambique, and into KwaZulu-Natal as far south as Durban. Although mainly in low-lying areas, it has been recorded as high as 2000 m in the vicinity of Barberton. Pollinated by long-tongued bees, particularly Amegilla fallax. Flowers mainly December to March, but can be any time in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Flowers cream, greenish, pink, mauve, slate-grey or orange; usually with pink to purple speckles.


Gladiolus deserticola


Gladiolus dolichosiphon


Gladiolus dolomiticus


Gladiolus ecklonii (Sheathed gladiolus)

Gladiolus elliotii

Gladiolus emiliae


Gladiolus engysiphon


Gladiolus equitans

Gladiolus exiguus


Gladiolus exilis


Gladiolus ferrugineus


Gladiolus filiformis


Gladiolus flanaganii


Gladiolus flavoviridis

Gladiolus floribundus

Gladiolus fourcadei


Gladiolus geardii


Gladiolus gracilis

Gladiolus grandiflorus


Gladiolus gregarius

Recorded from Mozambique.


Gladiolus griseus

Gladiolus gueinzii


Gladiolus guthriei


Gladiolus hirsutus

Gladiolus hollandii


Gladiolus huttonii


Gladiolus hyalinus


Gladiolus inandensis


Gladiolus inflatus

Gladiolus inflexus


Gladiolus insolens


Gladiolus involutus


Gladiolus jonquilliodorus


Gladiolus juncifolius

Gladiolus kamiesbergensis


Gladiolus karooicus


Gladiolus lapeirousioides


Gladiolus leptosiphon


Gladiolus lewisiae


Gladiolus liliaceus

Gladiolus longicollis (Honey flower)


Gladiolus loteniensis


Gladiolus macneilii


Gladiolus maculatus

Gladiolus magnificus

Gladiolus malvinus


Gladiolus marlothii


Gladiolus martleyi


Gladiolus meliusculus

Gladiolus melleri

Gladiolus meridionalis

Gladiolus microcarpus


Gladiolus miniatus


Gladiolus monticola

Gladiolus mortonius


Gladiolus mosambicensis


Gladiolus mostertiae


Gladiolus murielae

[= Gladiolus callianthus]

Recorded from Mozambique.

Gladiolus mutabilis


Gladiolus nerineoides


Gladiolus nigromontanus


Gladiolus oatesii

Occurs in eastern Botswana, northern regions of South Africa (Northwest Province, Gauteng and Limpopo) and southern and central Zimbabwe. Grows in rocky areas of woodland (occasionally open grassland), where the corms growing between the rocks are protected from porcupines, baboons and other herbivores. Flowers a combination of off-white, mauve and purple.


Gladiolus ochroleucus (Triangular gladiolus)


Gladiolus oppositiflorus  (Salmon gladiolus, Transkei gladiolus)

Gladiolus orchidiflorus


Gladiolus oreocharis


Gladiolus ornatus


Gladiolus overbergensis

Gladiolus paludosus


Gladiolus papilio (Butterfly gladiolus)

Gladiolus pardalinus


Gladiolus parvulus


Gladiolus patersoniae


Gladiolus pavonia


Gladiolus permeabilis


Gladiolus phoenix


Gladiolus pole-evansii


Gladiolus pretoriensis


Gladiolus priorii

Gladiolus pritzelii


Gladiolus pubigerus


Gladiolus pulcherrimus

Gladiolus quadrangularis


Gladiolus quadrangulus

Gladiolus recurvus

Gladiolus reginae


Gladiolus rehmannii


Gladiolus rhodanthus

Gladiolus robertsoniae


Gladiolus rogersii

Gladiolus roseovenosus


Gladiolus rubellus


Gladiolus rudis


Gladiolus rufomarginatus


Gladiolus saccatus

Gladiolus salteri


Gladiolus saundersii  (Saunders' gladiolus, Lesotho lily)

Gladiolus saxatilis


Gladiolus scabridus (Itala gladiolus)


Gladiolus scullyi

Gladiolus sekukuniensis


Gladiolus sempervirens

Gladiolus sericeovillosus (Large speckled gladiolus)


Gladiolus serpenticola


Gladiolus speciosus


Gladiolus splendens


Gladiolus stefaniae


Gladiolus stellatus


Gladiolus stokoei


Gladiolus subcaeruleus


Gladiolus sufflavus


Gladiolus symonsii


Gladiolus taubertianus


Gladiolus teretifolius


Gladiolus trichonemifolius


Gladiolus tristis


Gladiolus uitenhagensis


Gladiolus undulatus

Gladiolus unguiculatus

A tropical African species with a broad distribution extending from Senegal and Sudan to northern Zimbabwe, where it grows in flat areas with permanent or seasonal wetlands.

Gladiolus uysiae

Gladiolus vaginatus


Gladiolus vandermerwei


Gladiolus variegatus


Gladiolus varius


Gladiolus venustus


Gladiolus vernus


Gladiolus vigilans


Gladiolus vinosomaculatus


Gladiolus violaceolineatus


Gladiolus virescens


Gladiolus virgatus


Gladiolus viridiflorus


Gladiolus watermeyeri


Gladiolus watsonius

Gladiolus wilsonii

Gladiolus woodii


Gladiolus zimbabweensis

Recorded from Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Gladiolus x lewisiae



  • Goldblatt P. & Manning J.C. 1998. Gladiolus in Southern Africa: Systematics, Biology and Evolution. Fernwood Press, Cape Town.