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Gladiolus unguiculatus

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 unguiculatus Gladiolus unguiculatus
Gladiolus unguiculatus

Gladiolus unguiculatus, Borrowdale Common, Harare, Zimbabwe. [photos Bart Wursten , Flora of Zimbabwe]


Information from Goldblatt (1993) and from the account of Gladiolus oatesii in Goldblatt and Manning (1998 pp. 178-179).


  • Flowers cream to light-purple, the upper tepals light- to deep-purple, the lower tepals with deep-purple spear-shaped markings in the upper third.
  • Often confused with Gladiolus atropurpureus but can be distinguished by the gap (window) between the uppermost tepal and the upper lateral tepals, when viewed in profile (see image above, right). 
  • Also similar to Gladiolus oatesii. The main photosynthetic leaves of Gladiolus unguiculatus are produced from separate shoots from the same corm as the flowering stem whereas in Gladiolus oatesii, the main photosynthetic leaves are the sheathing leaves on the flower stem. They can also be distinguised on the basis of habitat where Gladiolus oatesii grows in rocky situations whereas Gladiolus unguiculatus grows in flat, wetland situations. Also note differences in their distribution (Gladiolus oatesii occurs in southern Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana and northern South Africa whereas Gladiolus unguiculatus occurs from northern Zimbabwe northwards).

Distribution and habitat

A tropical African species with a broad distribution extending from Senegal and Sudan to northern Zimbabwe, where it grows in flat areas with permanent or seasonal wetlands.

Life cycle

  • A geophyte with corms measuring 10-30 mm in diameter (usually 15-20 mm).
  • Flowers from November to December.
  • Fruits late December and January.
  • Dormant from February to April.



Text by Hamish Robertson

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