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Gladiolus abbreviatus

Slangkop, Suikermannetjie [Afrikaans]

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 > Genus: Gladiolus

Gladiolus abbreviatus  

Gladiolus abbreviatus flowering in spring near Villiersdorp, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Colin Paterson-Jones ]


Unless otherwise indicated, information is from Goldblatt and Manning (1998 pp. 306-307).


  • The very short lower tepals are distinctive.
  • This is the only species of Gladiolus in southern Africa with coloured floral bracts: they can be pale to olive green, flushed with red, brown or orange.

Distribution and habitat

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.

Life cycle

  • A geophyte, with a corm measuring 10-12 mm in diameter.
  • Flowers from mid-June to mid-August, sometimes also in September. 
  • Seeds are ovate, often tapering at one end, broadly winged, measuring about 6-7 mm long by 4 mm broad.

Ecological interactions


  • Nectarinia famosa (Malachite sunbird). The reddish colouring of the floral bracts presumably hightens the visibility of the flowers to this pollinator.

Meaning of name

abbreviatus - means abbreviated in Latin, referring to the short lower tepals, which are 3-6 mm long compared with the dorsal tepal which can be up to 30 mm long (Goldblatt and Manning 1998 pp. 306-307).


  • Goldblatt P. and Manning J. 1998. Gladiolus in Southern Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.

Text by Hamish Robertson

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