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Genus Gladiolus Family Iridaceae

Description: Perennial herbs with annual leaves and flowers; corms globose or ovoid, tunic fibrous to papery.

Leaves 1–several, basal, sword-shaped, lanceolate or linear, flat to almost terete in section, tough, fibrous; cauline leaves reduced, bract-like.

Spike secund or more or less distichous. Scape erect, terete, unbranched; spathe bracts green, lanceolate, inner one shorter, 2-toothed to 2-fid, occasionally tubular below; spathes 1-flowered. Flowers zygomorphic [rarely actinomorphic], often somewhat fragrant, variously coloured, outer 3 tepals narrower than inner; tepals basally connate into a perianth tube straight or usually curved, cylindrical to funnel-shaped; free lobes subequal to very unequal, sometimes clawed at base or 2-lipped, with nectar-guide markings on outer lobes. Stamens usually grouped on 1 side of the style. Style filiform, 3-branched; branches entire, widened at apices.

Capsule oblong to ellipsoidl or ovoid, papery to leathery, often with prominent reticulate veins; seeds numerous, flat, winged [rarely wingless], brown.

Photo Karen L Wilson

Photo Karen L Wilson


Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 260 species, Africa, Madagascar, Eurasia. Australia: 15 species (naturalized), all States except N.T.

Numerous large-flowered Gladiolus hybrids are cultivated and may occur as garden escapes, but are not truly naturalized.

Text by T. A. James & E. A. Brown (1993); edited KL Wilson (Oct 2015)
Taxon concept:

 Key to the species 
1Perianth c. 3 cm long; leaves somewhat fleshy, far exceeding the inflorescenceGladiolus gueinzii
Perianth more than 3 cm long; leaves never fleshy, hardly exceeding the inflorescence2
2Perianth tube about twice as long as lobesGladiolus angustus
Perianth tube about equal to lobes
                       Back to 1
3Perianth lobes acute, variably undulate4
Perianth lobes long-acuminate with tapering, markedly undulate tips
                       Back to 2
Gladiolus undulatus
4Perianth lobes narrow-elliptic, 2–3 times as long as wideGladiolus carneus
Perianth lobes broad-elliptic (at least the uppermost 3), about as long as wide
                       Back to 3
5Perianth lobes all similar in sizeGladiolus x hortulanus
Uppermost 3 perianth lobes much bigger than (about twice the size of) lower 3 lobes
                       Back to 4
Gladiolus dalenii

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