February 12, 2011

Species Gladiolus!

Gladiolus maculatus ssp. maculatus - known to South African youth as 'Aandblom', it's common name is also  the 'Small or Sweet Brown Afrikaner'.  It is strongly scented in the evening, which attracts insect pollinators.

Everything is a wild flower somewhere in the world, and looking at one of the most common of plants, the classic, tall Gladiolus often seen in funeral sprays, it's nice to know that there are in fact wild gladiolus growing somewhere in the world (all are native to the western cape of South Africa). I grow about 20 'wild' species, which are mostly winter-blooming plants, under glass in my greenhouse. This species marks the first of my collection to bloom this year, the wild gladiolus season under glass begins.

I received this labeled as Gladilous virescens, but sometime, small, specialized growers of  such rare bulbs recieve bulbs from other sources, and cannot test their crop. Now that it has bloomed, it clearly is not G. virescens, but perhaps it is Gladiolus maculatus, which until I look this up in one of my books on the genus, it my best guess.

Gladiolus maculatus, a species  or 'wild' Gladiolus, gets its Latin name for the species from it's speckling, ( maculate). As one of the 163 wild gladiolus from South Africa and one of the 85 winter-blooming species, these 'wild' plants are rarely seen in horticulture. We often forget that many of the plants that we grow in our gardens, are in fact hybrids created from multiple species, either through selection, genetic modification even, but let's not confuse them all.  If you are new to growing plants, you will find that most serious gardeners and plant lovers are drawn to the wild or species forms of plants rather than to the hybrids, ( which are 99% of all flowers found in any seed or bulb catalog today). These plants are genetically pure, untouched by man or woman, and evolved only by mother nature.

So if you are one of those who have deep concerns about the biotech industries, Monsanto and genetically modified plants, who only grows organic, heirloom, pure varieties, you better put your seed catalog down and really to your research, for a 'wild' marigold or a 'wild' zinnia can be grown, you just are not going to find it in one of the so-called 'Seed saver' type catalogs. Are plant species pretty? I leave that up to you to decide, most informed gardeners know what is appealing about wild plant species, and that is their authenticity. As for me, I grow both, hybrids, new crosses as well as species forms of plants. Sure, I pass on the GMO canola and corn, but I refuse to go there on this blog. For now? I will focus on these rare, wild forms of Gladiolus as I place my order for the big over-bred hybrids at the same time.

1 comment :

  1. Jacob Knecht11:01 PM

    Great post! It can be a bummer when something blooms and it isn't what one had intended to be growing.

    Not to nitpick but the native range of species Gladiolus isn't restricted to South Africa. It extends northward through Africa into the Mediterranean.


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