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Gladiolus carmineus (Cliff gladiolus, Hermanus gladiolus)

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 carmineus

Gladiolus carmineus flowering in summer in coastal strandveld at Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Colin Paterson-Jones ]

Information is mainly from Goldblatt and Manning (1998).

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it has a restricted coastal distribution from Pringle Bay in the west to Cape Infanta in the east. Plants grown within sight of the sea on outcrops of sandstone, often on cliffs.

Life cycle

  • A geophyte, with corms measuring 20-25 mm in diameter, usually wedged in cracks in rock.
  • Flowers from mid-February to late March.
  • The main photosynthetic leaves are not produced at the same time as the flower. Leaves on the flowering stem are reduced and usually bladeless. Foliage leaves are produced in the wet winter by plants that did not flower that year. By the time the plant does come round to flowering again, these foliage leaves have withered, died and decayed.

Ecological interactions


Based on the colour and shape of the flower, pollination is probably by the Table Mountain pride butterfly Aeropetes tulbaghia, but there are no observation of this.

Derivation of names

  • carmineus means carmine in Latin, in reference to the reddish colour of the flowers (more deep pink).
  • Hermanus is a town on the coast within the distribution of Gladiolus carmineus, hence the common name 'Hermanus gladiolus'. The town is one of the best places from which to observe Southern right whales because the whales come in very close to the sea cliffs. It is on these cliffs that Gladiolus carmineus can be observed although it flowers in late summer, early spring (February-March) whereas the whales are present along the coast in late winter and spring (July to September).



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

Text by Hamish Robertson

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