Gladiolus splendens (Sweet) Herb.

Cormous perennial with sword-shaped leaves and spikes of up to 14 bright red flowers, the lower tepals green.  To 110cm.  [CECB].  

Horticultural & Botanical History

The Botanical Register described, but did not figure, Gladiolus splendens, describing it as a form of G. cunonius, with a lengthy note from William Herbert: ‘There is no visible difference between [G. cunonius and G. splendens], excepting that the flower of cunonius has the tube yellow, the lower lip diminished, and yellow tipped with red, the rest of the flower scarlet, the upper segment being concave and prolonged, the laterals compressed; splendens has the tube and lower lip dull green, the lower edge of the upper laterals pale straw-colour, which is yellow in cunonius.’  [BR misc.61/1843]. 

Walter Synnot discovered Gladiolus splendens in the 1820s and is responsible for its introduction to Britain in 1825.  The plant was first described in Robert Sweet’s Hortus Britannicus in 1830 and was formally described by him in 1831.  It has been confused with Antholyza [Chasmanthe] caffra, now Tritoniopsis caffra (Ker-Gawl. ex Bak.) Goldbl.  Curtis’s Botanical Magazine provides an explanation for the confusion: ‘The two synonyms which Baker gives, Anisanthum splendens Sweet and Gladiolus splendens (Sweet) Herb., refer to another plant, Anomelesia splendens (Sweet) N.E.Br.’  [BM t.9470/1937]. 

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1845, 1850 and 1857 catalogues [B.166/1845].  Probably introduced by John Bidwill.  [See Gladiolus cardinalis Curt.].


Another possible candidate is the Gladiolus splendens noted in The Gardeners Chronicle as a member of the ‘Ramosus tribe’, by which is presumably meant a G. x ramosus hybrid.  [Gard. Chron. 1851].  This is presumably the plant listed in Paxton’s Dictionary, introduced in 1843, and described as a hybrid with green flowers.  Its relationship to Gladilus splendens (Sweet) Herb. is uncertain. 

Gladiolus splendens Welw. ex Baker (1878) = Gladiolus welwitschii Baker, synonym Gladiolus dalenii subsp. welwitschii (Baker) Goldblatt.  This is not Macarthur’s plant.

Published Oct 27, 2009 - 04:56 PM | Last updated Jul 23, 2010 - 12:05 PM

More details about Gladiolus splendens (Sweet) Herb.
Family Iridaceae
Region of origin

South Africa, Cape district

Common Name
Name in the Camden Park Record

Gladiolus splendens 

Confidence level medium