The Gladiolus Flower
The Mighty Sword and Gentle Blossom
In his poem, Gladioli,Gottfried Benn describes Gladiolus in an artful as well as simple way: A bunch of glads, certainly highly emblematic of creation, remote from frills of working blossom with hope of fruit: slow, durable, placid, generous, sure of kingly dreams.
The ancient Romans called the sword Gladius, and a little sword became a gladiolus, which was often used by gladiators. Pliny the illustrious Roman author dubbed the flower with long sword-shaped leaves gladiolus and the name stuck.
Gladiolus oppositiflorus, which is the scientific name for Gladiolus has been called Glads and Gladiola ever since the species became popular garden plants over 250 years ago.
Most species of Gladiolus were discovered in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, which is the center of diversity for the species. The genera Anomalesia Oenostachys, Homoglossum, and Acidanthera in that area are traditionally considered independent species, but are included in Gladiolus.
The genus Gladiolus contains around 260 species, but 250 of them are native to South Africa, and 10 are native to Eurasia. Glads are also native to South America and some species are found growing in the wild in Southern and Eastern Europe. They all are members of the Iris family.
Description and Characteristics
The Look of the Gladiolus Flower is almost Surreal
There’s no doubt that flowers have a different form of consciousness that could be classified as surreal when it is compared to the human consciousness. Gladiolus flowers have a space-like quality to them that is almost fourth dimensional in appearance.
The species vary from giant flower spikes to very small dainty blossoms. All species grow from gladiolus blubs, but they are not really bulbs; they are called corms, which are enveloped in several layers of fibrous tunics.
Gladiolus stems are usually unbranched, but they have 1 to 9 narrow sword-shaped grooved leaves, which are enclosed in a sheath. The fragrant gladiolus flowers are large, one-sided and bisexual. The petals and the sepals almost look exactly alike so they are called tepals. Both of them are united at the base in a tube like structure that is space-age worthy in terms of appearance.
The dorsal tepal is the large one and it arcs over three stamens. The three outer tepals are narrower. The perianth is funnel shaped and has stamen attached to its base. The ovary contains a plethora of winged brown dehiscent seeds. In their center is the noticeable pellet, which is the real seed without the fine coat.
The South African species were originally pollinated by long tongued anthrophorine bees, but changes in the pollination system have occurred so other insects now participate in the pollination process.
In the temperate zones of Europe small wasps try to fulfill that role, but do a poor job due to the large size of the flower and the small size of the wasp. The European Hawk-moth does a better job since it has a successful track record pollinating flowers like Zinnias, Dianthus, and Petunias.
Cultivation and Care
Glads prefer sandy loam soil, but can grow in a variety of soils, especially when a compose mixture of manure is added to the soil. Gladiolus corms like a pH of 6 to 6.5 and they must be removed from the soil when the temperature drops below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The gladiolus corms or tubers should be dried and then replanted when the temperate cooperates.
The good news is Glads don’t require a lot of care, but they shouldn’t be totally ignored. Controlling a weed invasion when they are young is important. Mulching helps control weeds plus it adds moisture around the plant. Plenty of water is certainly the main ingredient for good growth. An inch of water is a lot, but the Glads need it.
Avoid planting Glads in windy areas and don’t plant it next to a plant that doesn’t need a lot of water. Stake the Glads when they are about 8” tall, and hill the soil around the plant to keep them from slouching over.
Diseases and Pests
Gladioli do have one nemesis, which can cause the flowers to remain closed. The thrip is an insect pest that thrives on the leaves of gladiolus and damages them. A whitish streak on the leaves is usually a signal that the thrip is making its home on the leaves. A natural pesticide should be used to erratic them.
Glads Express Themselves in a Rainbow of Colors.
No garden is complete unless the Gladiola is present in one color or a variety of colors. Glad flowers can be a rainbow of colors that include:
There are also color variations that include:
- Pink to a Reddish color
- Light Purple to White
- Orange to Red
- White to Cream
Glads are the birth flower of August since it is grown in gardens between the months of July and September. A small rainbow of Gladiola colors in a garden or a vase can brighten up anyone’s day.
The dried blub which is ground into a powder has been used to treat a number of illnesses.
Some of those medical uses are:
- To cure the common cold
- To relieve diarrhea
- To alleviate constipation
- To reduce pain during menstruation
- To cure fungal infections
- To relieve ulcers
- To cure meningitis
The alkaloids in the plant are responsible for its antifungal properties. Research continues to reveal more medical uses for the corm of Gladiolus.
Click thumbnails to see pictures: