Blue Afrikaner (Gladiolus carinatus)

Gladiolus carinatus in flower
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Blue Afrikaner fact file

Blue Afrikaner description

GenusGladiolus (1)

The blue Afrikaner, a member of the iris family, has an unusual purple stem, mottled with white. The strongly scented flowers may be shades of blue, violet or yellow, and occasionally pink, and measure up to 30 millimetres wide (2) (4). The narrow, grass-like leaves of the blue Afrikaner have a prominent midrib, and underground, food for the plant is stored in a swollen stem base (2) (5).

Height: 30 – 60 cm (2)

Blue Afrikaner biology

The blue Afrikaner flowers between the months of August and September (2), when the strong scent of the blooms attract bees, which carry out pollination. The shape of the flower readily accommodates the head and thorax of the bee, and as it climbs into the flower in search of a sip of nectar, it receives a dusting of pollen (6). The blue Afrikaner is primarily pollinated by Anthophora bee species (A. diversipes, A. krugeri, and A. schulzei) and the European honey bee Apis mellifera (7).


Blue Afrikaner range

The blue Afrikaner occurs in South Africa, where it is distributed from Namaqualand, south and east to Knysna (2).


Blue Afrikaner habitat

Inhabits sandstone slopes or deep coastal sands (2).


Blue Afrikaner status

Subspecies Gladiolus carinatus parviflorus is classified as Rare on the Red Data List of Southern African Plants (3).


Blue Afrikaner threats

Although the blue Afrikaner species is not currently considered threatened, the subspecies G. c. parviflorus has been classified as Rare, meaning that the population is so small, an unexpected threat could cause a critical decline (3). The blue Afrikaner occurs in the Cape Floristic Region, an area of incredibly high plant diversity, which is known to be threatened by urban expansion, the encroachment of agriculture, and the invasion of alien plant species (8) (9).


Blue Afrikaner conservation

Within the Cape Floristic Region there are a number of protected areas (10), and a number of conservation organisations are working to conserve this botanically rich habitat. Conservation actions include purchasing land to protect it from the threats of encroaching agriculture and urban development (11), the removal of alien plants, and the establishment of new protected areas (8), measures which should hopefully protect the rare subspecies of the blue Afrikaner from becoming seriously threatened.


Find out more

For further information on the Cape Floristic Region and its conservation see:



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Cape Floristic Region
An area occupying about 90,000 square kilometres in South Africa that contains an incredibly high diversity of plant species (around 8,700 species), of which 68 percent are found no where else.
The transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  2. Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J. (2000) Cape Plants: A Conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. National Botanical Institute of South Africa, Pretoria .
  3. Hilton-Taylor, C. (1996) Red Data List of Southern African Plants. Strelitzia 4. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria, South Africa.
  4. Paterson-Jones, C. and Manning, J. (2007) Ecoguide Fynbos. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.
  5. Allaby, M. (1998) Dictionary of Plant Sciences. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Goldblatt, P., Manning, J.C. and Bernhardt, P. (1998) Adaptive radiation of bee-pollinated Gladiolus species (Iridaceae) in southern Africa. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 85(3): 492 - 517.
  7. Goldblatt, P., Manning, J.C. and Bernhardt, P. (2001) Radiation of pollination systems in Gladiolus (Iridaceae: Crocoideae) in southern Africa. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 88(4): 713 - 734.
  8. Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots (February, 2008)
  9. Rouget, M., Richardson, D.M., Cowling, R.M., Lloyd, J.W. and Lombard, A.T. (2003) Current patterns of habitat transformation and future threats to biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Biological Conservation, 112: 63 - 85.
  10. UNEP-WCMC: Cape Floral Protected Areas of South Africa (February, 2008)
  11. Fauna and Flora International (February, 2008)

Image credit

Gladiolus carinatus in flower  
Gladiolus carinatus in flower

© Colin Paterson-Jones /

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