Gladiolus loteniensis Hilliard & B.L.Burtt
Common names: Loteni gladiolus
The Critically Rare Gladiolus loteniensis blossoms into a delicate plant, with small mauve flowers.
This modestly attractive geophyte propagates in montane grasslands to a length of about 300–600 mm. The plant produces an undeveloped corm that grows 5–8 mm in diameter. The sheets of tunics covering the corm, are delicate and ultra-thin. These sheets develop into a fibrous system, once decomposed, producing white runners at the basal region of the plant. All runners end in a small corm.
Cataphylls (scale-like leaves) grow to about 10–20 mm tall and are thin, pliable and somewhat transparent, gradually becoming purple. In addition, about 4–7 leaves develop on the plant, with the 3 longer leaves situated at the base. These leaves extend from the centre of the stem to the bottom of the flower stalk. The leaf blades are egg-shaped to linear, 4–8 mm broad, with the midrib broadened and raised. The leaf margins are almost transparent, but not thickened. The rest of the leaves appear between the centre and the apex of the plants stem. These leaves gradually decrease in size, with the two uppermost leaves partially covering the stem. The stem is upright and bent outwards close to the flower stalk, sometimes bearing a little side branch. The flower stalk ranges from upright to slanting, bearing between 6 to 12 flowers. These flowers occur in two levels, with delicate bracts that are light green on the anterior and faded purple on the posterior. The outer bracts are 14–16 mm long, with the inner bracts being slightly smaller, containing tiny indentations near the apex and is situated beneath the outer bracts.
The flowers of this striking plant are pale mauve, with the anterior tepals, a darker shade of mauve underneath, near the middle. The posterior tepals are creamish, containing prominent violet venation in the lower part and a dark mauve in the upper part. The sinuses of the lower tepals have a distinct dark spot, which is odourless. According to Hilliard and Burtt (1986) the dark spots are peculiar, as its purpose had not been identified.
The perianth tube is about 5 mm long and somewhat cone-shaped. The tepals are asymmetrical and egg-shaped, tapering to the apex. The posterior tepals are about 25 mm long and 17 mm wide. These tepals are parallel and slanting towards the earth. The upper lateral tepals are about 18 mm long and 13 mm wide. The upper tepals are entwined and pressed against the bottom part of the posterior tepals. The bottom 3 tepals are upright, slanting towards the earth and fused for about 1.5 mm. The tepals situated on the lower side, are about 13 mm long and 5 mm wide. These tepals taper into a claw of about 2 mm long. The limbs of the claw are shortly extended with tapering grooves at the bottom that become smooth in the middle, about 16 mm long and 6 mm wide. The filaments are mauve, about 7 mm long and protruding to about 5 mm from the perianth tube. The anthers are 6 mm long with pale mauve pollen. The ovaries are egg-shaped and about 3 mm long. The style is flexed above the stamens, separating the centre and upper part of the anthers. Gladiolus loteniensis is known to bloom from December to January.
Gladiolus loteniensis is distinguished by its tiny flowers, pale mauve perianth, delicate sword-shaped leaves and significantly darker mauve venation on the lower tepals. Goldblatt and Manning (1998) proposed that Gladiolus loteniensis was comparable with Gladiolus involutus, as both species contained similar leaf shapes and textures, and flowers with the upper tepals entwined and pressed against the bottom parts of the posterior tepals; two species share similarities in that the limbs on the posterior sides of the tepals are spirally and that the tepals in the centre are longer than those below. The texture of the tunics in Gladiolus loteniensis and the development of white runners, were also comparable with Gladiolus involutus. These two species are geographically separated as Gladiolus involutus only occurs in parts of the Eastern and Western Cape.
SANBI’s Red List of South African plants, have listed Gladiolus loteniensis as Critically Rare. The species exists at one locality, with no observable threats impacting the population. Early 2016 volunteers of the Underberg CREW group were successful in locating the species.
Distribution and habitat
Gladiolus loteniensis is limited to the higher parts of the Loteni Valley in the southern Drakensberg. The region is distinguished by its montane grasslands and rocky terrain, where the plant is partial to plane habitats adjacent to river banks. Gladiolus loteniensis flourishes in black, nutrient-rich peat sediments shaded from the elements by the protruding rocks in the sandstone region, at an altitude of 1 800 m, beside the river banks.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Gladiolus has its name derived from the Latin word gladius, denoting ‘a sword’, referring to the distinct sword-shaped leaves present within the genus. Gladiolus loteniensis was first encountered by Olive Mary Hilliard and Brian Laurence Burtt (1913–2008), as they ventured through the Loteni River Vally in 1982. The species was later named in 1986, after the Loteni River Valley, where they found it.
According to SANBI records, after the initial find by Hilliard and Burtt, the species was only collected twice, once by Peter Goldblatt and John Manning in the December of 1994 and again in the January of 2016, by Ansell Matcher, Julie Braby and Sally Ovendale of the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) Underberg group.
Gladiolus loteniensis is pollinated by bees as indicated by the adapted short-tubed flowers.
There are no records of traditional, economic or medicinal uses for this species.
Growing Gladiolus loteniensis
Gladiolus loteniensis, like most species of Gladiolus, is fairly easy to grow under the right conditions. Most plants from this genus can be grown from seeds, as well as the underground storage stem (corm). This particular species favours black, peaty soils, in cool shaded areas and like other summer-flowering Gladiolus species, the plants corm develops in spring to early summer, between September to November, and requires a sufficient water supply to sustain itself. To ensure maximum growth, this gladiolus’s corm should be planted into the earth containing black, peaty soils, rich in organic matter, amongst rocks or boulders, to ensure protection from the elements.
When depositing seeds into the soil, regular watering needs to occur, to ensure that plantlets develop. Flowers will only appear in mid-summer. Since this species grows in summer, the plant is more vulnerable to pests, and suitable care should be taken to ensure that the plant is safeguarded. In the winter months it is crucial that the delicate plant be kept in a cool, moist environment, shaded from the elements.
- Agenbag, L. 2006. Gladiolus oppositiflorus Herb. (Iridaceae) Internet 4 pp. http://pza.sanbi.org/gladiolus-oppositiflorus. Accessed on 21 July, 2016.
- Du Plessis, N. & Duncan, G. 1989. Bulbous plants of southern Africa: a guide to their cultivation and propagation. Tafelberg, Cape Town.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 1998. Gladiolus in southern Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
- Hiiliard, O.M. & Burtt, B.L. 1986. Notes on some plants of southern African chiefly from Natal: XII. Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 43(2): 206, 207.
- Pooley, E. 2003. Mountain flowers, a field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Treurnicht, M. 2011. Gladiolus carmineus C.H.Wright (Iridaceae). Internet 4 pp. http://pza.sanbi.org/gladiolus-carmineus Accessed on 07 July, 2016.
- Victor, J.E. & Scott-Shaw, C.R. 2005. Gladiolus loteniensis. Hilliard & B.L.Burtt. National Assessment: Red List of South African plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 21 July, 2016.
- Wilman, V. 2012. Gladiolus guthriei F.Bolus (= Gladiolus odoratus L.Bolus) (Iridaceae). Internet 4 pp. http://pza.sanbi.org/gladiolus-guthriei. Accessed on 07 July, 2016.
Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) programme – KZN Node
Plant Type: Bulb
SA Distribution: KwaZulu-Natal
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Early Summer
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Cream, Mauve/Lilac
Aspect: Shade, Morning Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Average