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Gladiolus debilis (Painted lady)

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 debilis

Gladiolus debilis flowering in spring on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. [photo Colin Paterson-Jones ]

Gladiolus debilis Gladiolus debilis

Gladiolus debilis, Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, Kleinmond, Western Cape, South Africa.  [photos H.G. Robertson, Iziko ]

Information from Goldblatt and Manning (1998).

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it occurs from the Cape Peninsula to Bain's Kloof in the northeast, and to Bredasdorp in the east. Plants grown in fynbos on rocky sandstone slopes. Flower mainly in the first two to three years after a fire.

Life cycle

  • A geophyte, with corms measuring 12-20 mm in diameter.
  • Flowers from September to early October.
  • Seeds are ovate, measuring 5-6 mm long by 4 mm broad, broadly and evenly winged.

Ecological interactions


Flower colour and shape suggest pollination by long-tongued flies but there are no observations to support this.

Derivation of name

debilis means dainty, referring to the delicate flowers.


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

Text by Hamish Robertson

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