Wild Gladiolus – Gladiolus illyricus
by Tony Hall
The wild gladiolus is a very showy plant, that really stands out with its spike of magenta or deep pink coloured flowers.
The plant grows from a corm, which like a bulb is the plant's underground storage organ but differs by forming as a swollen stem base. Each corm produces mainly basal leaves that are flat and sword-like, broad and with a pointed tip, produced in a fan-like arrangement.
Up to ten flowers are produced along a tall spike, between 40 and 60cm tall, with the inflorescence one-sided, but the flowers face in two directions. These open from the bottom upwards, and the first flowers open are usually already fading before the upper flowers are open. Each flower is made up of six unequal petals. The uppermost petal is the largest, followed by the two below and either side of it. These three petals are unmarked. The lower three petals all have a pale pink or white central streak, with a darker band around it.They grow in a wide variety of conditions, from grassy meadows, to stony areas and in amongst the garrigue, from March to June.
Tony Hall, Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, specialising in the plants of Andalucía.