Back to Biodiversity Explorer main pageGo to Iziko Museums of Cape Town home pageAbout Biodiversity Explorer - history, goals, etc.Send us your questions about southern African biodiversityPeople who have contributed content and images.Search Biodiversity Explorer

Gladiolus angustus (Marsh painted lady)

Katjietee [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 angustus

Gladiolus angustus flowering in late spring at Rondevlei on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. [photo Colin Paterson-Jones ]


Unless otherwise indicated, information is from Goldblatt and Manning (1998 pp. 136-137).


There are two main distinctive characters of this species:

  • the very long perianth tube, usually measuring about 70-100 mm long, but sometimes only about 50 mm long.
  • the cream to ivory coloured flowers with the lower tepals much shorter than the upper ones and with dark red, diamond- or spade-shaped markings.

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where the distribution includes the Cape Peninsula, up the West Coast as far north as about Vredenburg and from there 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 (Manning et al. 2002).

Life cycle

  • A geophyte, with a corm measuring 14-20 mm in diameter.
  • Flowers from October to November.
  • Seeds are ovate, measuring about 8-9 mm long by 5-6 mm wide, and are broadly and evenly winged.

Ecological interactions


  • Diptera (flies) > Nemestrinidae > Moegistorhynchus longirostris. This fly has a phenomenally long proboscis (up to 80 mm!) that it uses to access the nectar at the base of the long tube of Gladiolus angustus (see photo below). For more detailed information, see Goldblatt and Manning (1999).
Gladiolus angustus  

The long-proboscid fly (Moegistorhynchus longirostris) pollinating a flower of Gladiolus angustus in late spring in the Rondeberg Reserve on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. [photo Colin Paterson-Jones ]


Meaning of name

angustus is Latin for narrow, presumably referring to the long, slender tube of the flower.


  • Goldblatt P. and Manning J. 1998. Gladiolus in Southern Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
  • Goldblatt P. and Manning J.C. 1999. The long-proboscid fly pollination system in Gladiolus (Iridaceae). Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 86(3): 758-774.
  • Manning J., Goldblatt P. and Snijman D. 2002. The Color Encyclopedia of Cape Bulbs. Timber Press, Portland.

Text by Hamish Robertson

Contact us if you can contribute information or images to improve this page.

Biodiversity Explorer home   Iziko home   Search