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glad all over

Gladiolus (from Latin, the diminutive of gladius, a sword), sometimes called the sword lily, is a genus of flowering plants in the iris family (Iridaceae).

 

The genus Gladiolus contains about 260 species, of which 250 are native to sub-Saharan Africa, mostly South Africa. About 10 species are native to Eurasia. There are 160 species of Gladiolus endemic in southern Africa and 76 in tropical Africa. The species vary from very small to the spectacular giant flower spikes in commerce.

 

These attractive, perennial herbs are semihardy in temperate climates. They grow from rounded, symmetrical corms, that are enveloped in several layers of brownish, fibrous tunics.

 

Their stems are generally unbranched, producing 1 to 9 narrow, sword-shaped, longitudinal grooved leaves, enclosed in a sheath. The lowest leaf is shortened to a cataphyll. The leaf blades can be plane or cruciform in cross section.

 

The fragrant flower spikes are large and one-sided, with secund, bisexual flowers, each subtended by 2 leathery, green bracts. The sepals and the petals are almost identical in appearance, and are termed tepals. They are united at their base into a tube-shaped structure. The dorsal tepal is the largest, arching over the three stamenss. The outer three tepals are narrower. The perianth is funnel-shaped, with the stamens attached to its base. The style has three filiform, spoon-shaped branches, each expanding towards the apex.

 

The ovary is 3-locular with oblong or globose capsules, containing many, winged brown, longitudinally dehiscent seeds.

 

These flowers are variously colored, pink to reddish or light purple with white, contrasting markings, or white to cream or orange to red.

 

The South African species were originally pollinated by long-tongued anthrophorine bees, but some changes in the pollination system have occurred, allowing pollination by sunbirds, noctuid and sphingid moths, long-tongued flies and several others.

 

Gladioli are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Large Yellow Underwing.

 

They make very good cut flowers. However, due to their height, the cultivated forms frequently tend to fall over in the wind if left on the plant.

 

Gladioli (the plural form of the word) have been extensively hybridized and a wide range of ornamental flower colours are available from the many varieties. The main hybrid groups are obtained by crossing between four or five species, followed by selection: Grandiflorus, Primulines and Nanus.

 

The stage character Dame Edna Everage, has adopted the gladiolus as her trademark flower; the flowers often appear in her publicity photos and stage appearances. The singer Morrissey has done the same thing since his days in The Smiths in the 1980s, this use of flowers being rather unique in popular music circles.

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Taken on August 30, 2004