Gladiolus angustus L.
Common names: long-tubed painted lady, marsh painted lady (Eng); katjietee (Afr.)
Gladiolus angustus is one of the most remarkable, noteworthy species of the genus and it can be instantly recognized by its extremely long perianth tube.
A robust, deciduous, winter-growing, perennial geophyte, 300–600 to 1 200 mm tall. Rootstock is a globose, papery corm, with membranous tunics, 14–20 mm in diameter. The stem is slender and erect, branched, 2.5–4 mm in diameter and about 500 mm long. Leaves are sword-shaped, flat, firm, linear and differ in length according to species. Gladiolus angustus has 4 or 5 leaves with 2 or 3 basal leaves, the longest reaching or shortly exceeding the flower spike. Blooms in spring to early summer, from October to November, bearing 3 to 6 flowers in a lax spike. Flowers are cream- to pale cream-coloured, sometimes flushed with pink, with a bright reddish purple, spade-shaped marking in the midline of the 3 lower lobes. The perianth tube is slender, 50–110 mm long, much longer than the tepals which are 16–18 mm long, lanceolate and unequal. Seeds are broadly winged and ovate, the seed body slightly brown.
Gladiolus angustus is not threatened and the conservation status is assessed as Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Occurs mostly in southwestern and northwestern parts of the Western Cape, extending from the Piketberg to Cedarberg and around the Cape Peninsula. It grows beside streams and in marshes, in moist places on flats and on mountain slopes, on sandstone soils.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The Latin word gladius, meaning ‘sword’ was used by Pliny, referring to the shape of the leaves and the species name angustus, meaning ‘narrow’, refers to the slender tube of the flower.
Gladiolus angustus mainly attracts the long-tongued flies of which Moegistorhynchus longirostris acts as its sole pollinator and is the main pollinator of the long-tubed flowers of the Cape west coast. Moegistorhynchus longirostris appears to be the only insect with mouthparts that are adapted to feed on the nectar that is stored at the base of the very long perianth tubes of Gladiolus angustus.
Gladiolus angustus has no traditional or medicinal uses. It can be grown as an ornamental pot plant.
Growing Gladiolus angustus
Propagation can be easily done by seed or offsets from the parent corms. Sow seed in autumn, use a light, well-drained soil. Sow thinly, cover lightly and keep moist. Allow the seedlings to remain in the same container for the first 2 years, and keep them dry in summer.
Plant corms 20 cm apart and 10 cm deep in a well-drained, sandy, acidic fynbos soil mix with plenty of compost, and grow in a sunny, well-ventilated position. Water in autumn and winter, stop watering as the leaves start to go brown and keep completely dry in summer. It is best cultivated in containers or in gardens in the winter-rainfall area in a well-drained, sunny spot where they will not be irrigated in summer. Plants are susceptible to mealy bug and are eaten by moles and porcupines.
- Duncan, G. 2019. Gladiolus aureus. Baker. (Iridaceae). PlantZAfrica. Online. http://pza.sanbi.org/gladiolus-aureus
- Foden, W. & Potter, L. 2005. Gladiolus angustus L. National Assessment: Red List of South African plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2019/10/17.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 1998. Gladiolus in southern Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
- Lewis, G.J., Obermeyer, A.A. & Barnard, T.T. 1972. Gladiolus: a revision of the South African species. Journal of South African Botany Suppl. 10
- Manning, J. 2007. Field guide to Fynbos. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Manning, J., Goldblatt, P. & Snijman, D. 2002. The color encyclopedia of Cape bulbs. Timber Press, Cambridge.
Pretoria National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Bulb
SA Distribution: Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
Flower colour: Purple, Pink, Cream
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Average