Gladiolus papilio

Goldblotch Gladiola; aka,
Autumn Gladiolus, or
'Purpureo-auratus' Butterfly Galdiolus

"Would you try to pluck her
And hold her in your hand?
The wildflower fades
But then she blooms again."

-Kyp Harness,


Gladiolus papilio has grassy foliage to two feet tall produces sweeping late summer & early autumn flower stems, August through September. These arch above the foliage, topped by a row of one or two inch blossoms in grey-green & lavender or slate-lilac. A look inside the hooded funnels reveals a moth-shaped purplish marking against faded yellow, & it is for this mark that it gets its species name which means "butterfly."

The wild form is sometimes sold as though it were a cultivar called 'Purpureo-auratus.' There are also a red cultivar called 'Ruby' that is showier, but the wild form has colors so muted that it is more interesting than showy, but pretty even so, & excellent either as cut flowers or as a marvelous garden oddity.

Hardy & vigorous in loamy moist well draining soil, its rhizomes produce numerous cormlets which fatten into flowering bulbs. It has escaped cultivation to naturalize in parts of the American south, but is slightly more subdued in temperate gardens. It is native to southeast Africa & doesn't like winters below about five degrees Fahrenheit.

This species has been used in hybrid programs for the most ornate glads, especially those which are blotched or blue, & in particular the Lemoine & Nanceianus strains.


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