August Birth Flower
Gladiolus is also commonly referred by its genus name – Gladiolus, the plural form of which can be Gladioluses, Gladiole or Gladioli. Due to its sword shaped leaves, the plant is also known as the Sword Lily, or Corn Lily. An ancient name for gladiolus was xiphium, meaning sword in Greek. Gladiolus plants are perennial herbs and semihardy in temperate climates. They are members of the iris family. The flower is available in the middle of summer.
The gladiolus is a beautiful cut flower because they last well and is one of the most attractive garden flowers. Gladioli are grown from bulb-like structures called corms that are planted in the ground in early spring and bloom throughout most of July and August.
The genus Gladiolus comprises 260 species; 10 species are native to Eurasia and 250 species are native to sub-Saharan Africa, mostly South Africa. African Gladioli were imported from South Africa to Europe in large quantities during the 18th century. Most of the more than 10,000 named Gladioli cultivars were probably derived from just 7 species native to South Africa, they were first brought to European gardens in the late 17th century. Every flower color but blue is represented in modern hybrids, the flowers themselves vary immensely.
Physical Appearance and Characteristics
The gladiolus flower spikes (from 1 – 4 feet tall) are one-sided and large, with secund, bisexual flowers. Flower colors may be green, white, mauve, yellow, red, orange, purple or pink, with stripes or blotches of another color. Each of its flower is subtended by 2 leathery, green bracts. The petals and sepals are almost identical in appearance, and are termed tepals. Two of them are united at their base into a tube-shaped structure. The largest is its dorsal tepal, arching over the three stamens. The outer three tepals are narrower. The perianth of gladiolus is funnel-shaped, with its stamens attached to its base. The style has 3 filiform, spoon-shaped branches, each expanding towards the apex. Some gladioli have scented flowers.
In botanical terminology, the gladiolus bulbs are referred to as corms, they are not true bulbs. On the corm are buds for each layer of the leaves. A corm is a thickened and shortened section of the stem, it appears at the base of the plant. Gladioli are not cultivated from seed (except for production of new varieties). Gladiolus plants grow from rounded, symmetrical corms that are envelopped in several layers of brownish, fibrous tunics.
Two popular groups, the largee-flowered and giant-flowered hybrids, are more suitable for garden display than for floral decoration.
Symbolism and Meanings
Some parts of gladiolus plant are poisonous, if ingested and handling some species may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.
They grow the brightest and are very sturdy when grown in full sunlight. Planting them in full sunlight will help the plant store more energy for growing the following year. Gladioli prefer well-drained soil with added fertilizer, strong winds can damage gladioli and knock them over. The gladiolus is the August birth flower. These flowers look like a sword with their tall stalks, hence their being named after the gladiators. This flower means remembrance, generosity, sincererity and it also symbolises strength of character.
The many cultivars are classified into 3 major groups: they are Nanus, Primulinus and Grandiflorus.
- Hybrids and cultivars in the group of Nanus bloom in early summer with two/three 22 to 35 cm spikes per corm, the spike each bearing 3 to 5 open flowers at a time.
- Those in the group of Primulinus bloom in midsummer with a single very slender 30 to 60 cm stem per corm, the stem bears 20 buds with up to 7 open at a time.
- Cultivars and hybrids from the Grandiflorus group bloom from late spring through autumn with as many as 28 buds on (usually) a single spike of usually 35 to 90 cm tall, dozen of flowers may be open at a time. Gladioli of the Grandiflorus group are classified further by flower size and color in an elaborate trinomial system, with first digit indicating size, the second indicating color and the third intensity of color. The largest Grandiflorus cultivars can get up to 1.7 metre tall, while some miniatures do not reach 90 cm in height.
Uses, Diseases and Threats
Scab, Fusarium Rot and Yellows, leaf spots, Pencillium Storage Rot and Blights, Virus, Stromatinia Corm Dry Rot and Phytoplasma disease are the common Gladioli diseases. The gladioli thrip, a black tiny winged insect is a real threat to gladioli plants and flowers. It sucks the plant’s juice, leaving a silvery appearance, and eventually causing the plant to turn brown. The thrips also can cause deformed flowers and prevent flower spikes from opening.
The British and Mediterranean Gladiolus flowers were used to treat physical ailments. The English used the flower’s stem base (corms) as a poultice and for drawing out splinters and thorns; powdered corms mixed with milk of goat was commonly used to soothe the symptoms of colic.
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