Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, October 2018
   Gladiolus speciosus - by Liam McCaughey
Just back from a trip to the Western Cape in South Africa with 'Greentours', we are still recovering from the confusion created by being presented with such a profusion of flowers, mostly unknown to  us. A majority of the most interesting were small bulbous plants. Among these were 23 different species of gladiolus - small and dainty in comparison with the species and cultivars with which we are familiar.

Here is Gladiolus speciosus - previously known as Gladiolus alatus ssp speciosus, and in Afrikaans named bont kalkoentjie (little multicoloured turkey), growing in sandy soil about 70km south of Nieuwoudtville, at an altitude of 310m. This plant was about 15cm in height.

The species distribution is mainly in the western part of the Western Cape, slightly spilling over into the Northern Cape around Nieuwoudtville, where we saw it. 

We haven't found any mention of it being in cultivation,   but in the wild it flowers after winter rains, and no doubt is likely to be frost tender, and might be suitable for the Alpine house.

Luckily for us,  2018 (unlike 2017) has been a good year for the flowers, with rains coming at the right time, and resulting in the displays of sheets of flowers for which the area is famed - and in our state of confusion. Our checklist by the end had 878 species ticked off, of which maybe a dozen were ones we were familiar with. Campbell, our guide,  put up one competition score on our rather travel-stained minibus.