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Wild Gladiolus

Gladiolus illyricus

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Iridaceae (Iris)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall

Purple, 6 petals
The inflorescence is a spike of 3 to 6 flowers. They are bright reddish-purple and funnel-shaped with bracts often tinged purple at the tips. Its petals are pointed. Flowers each measure between 3.5 and 5cm across.
A many-seeded capsule.
The leaves are narrow and iris-like. A small population of Wild Gladiolus can be found growing in the New Forest, Hampshire. Often found growing under or around bracken.
Other Names:
Illyrian Gladiolus.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Gladiolus illyricus, commonly known as the Illyrian gladiolus or Balkan gladiolus, is a species of flowering plant in the iris family. It is native to the Balkans, including Greece, Albania, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant, growing up to 50-100 cm tall. The leaves are narrow, grass-like and basal. The flowers are arranged on a tall spike, with each spike having 1 to 5 flowers that are large and funnel-shaped, with 6 tepals which are usually pink, purple, or white. They appear in late spring to early summer. They prefer well-drained, calcareous soils and a sunny position. It's a hardy plant and also easy to propagate from corms which can be planted in fall. They are popular garden plants and also used for cut flowers.


Wild Gladiolus, also known as Gladiolus illyricus, is a stunning flowering plant that belongs to the family Iridaceae. It is a native plant to the Mediterranean region, particularly in areas like Greece, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro. Wild Gladiolus is a well-known species of the Gladiolus genus and has been admired for its beauty for centuries. In this blog post, we will explore the various features of this amazing plant, including its physical appearance, habitat, and cultural significance.

Physical Appearance

Wild Gladiolus is a perennial herb that can grow up to 1 meter in height. Its leaves are linear, erect, and grass-like, measuring between 30-50 cm long and about 1 cm wide. The flower spikes of Wild Gladiolus grow in a straight line and can produce up to 20 flowers, each measuring between 2-4 cm in diameter. The flowers of Wild Gladiolus are typically pink or lilac in color, with darker lines and spots on the lower petals. The plant blooms in late spring and early summer, and the flowers last for about two weeks.


Wild Gladiolus thrives in rocky and dry habitats, such as limestone slopes, cliffs, and meadows. It prefers full sun and well-drained soils, and it can tolerate hot and dry summers. Wild Gladiolus is a Mediterranean plant and can be found in countries such as Greece, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro.

Cultural Significance

Wild Gladiolus has been admired for its beauty for centuries and has been the subject of many cultural references. In ancient Greece, gladiolus flowers were associated with the god of love, Eros, and were often used in garlands and decorations during celebrations. The name "gladiolus" is derived from the Latin word "gladius," meaning "sword," and refers to the shape of the plant's leaves, which resemble a sword.

In addition to its cultural significance, Wild Gladiolus has medicinal properties and has been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems, fever, and inflammation.

Conservation Status

Wild Gladiolus is currently listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The plant faces threats from habitat loss due to human activities, such as urbanization and agriculture. Climate change and wildfires also pose a threat to Wild Gladiolus, as they can alter the plant's habitat and reduce its ability to survive.


Wild Gladiolus is a stunning plant with cultural significance and medicinal properties. However, its conservation status is currently listed as vulnerable, and efforts need to be made to protect this species from threats such as habitat loss and climate change. By increasing awareness of this plant and taking action to conserve its habitat, we can ensure that future generations will be able to admire its beauty and appreciate its cultural significance.

More Information

Wild Gladiolus is a plant that is often cultivated in gardens and is popular among gardeners due to its beauty and ease of cultivation. The plant can be grown from corms, which are small bulb-like structures that produce new plants each year. Wild Gladiolus can be propagated through seeds or by dividing the corms during the dormant season.

One of the interesting facts about Wild Gladiolus is that it is a favorite food of the Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata), a species of lizard that is found in the same regions where Wild Gladiolus grows. The lizards are known to climb the plants to feed on the flowers and leaves.

Wild Gladiolus has also been used in various cultural traditions and folklore. In Albanian folklore, Wild Gladiolus is associated with the goddess of love, and it is believed that if a woman wears a Wild Gladiolus flower in her hair, she will be blessed with fertility and love.

In addition to its cultural and ecological significance, Wild Gladiolus has also been studied for its potential pharmaceutical uses. Researchers have found that the plant contains compounds that exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. These properties make Wild Gladiolus a promising candidate for the development of new drugs that could be used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions.

Studies have also shown that Wild Gladiolus extracts have a protective effect on the liver, suggesting that the plant could be used to treat liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis. Additionally, the plant has been found to have antitumor activity, indicating that it may have potential in the treatment of cancer.

Wild Gladiolus is also a plant that has been used in traditional medicine for many years. In Greek traditional medicine, the plant has been used to treat respiratory problems, while in Albanian traditional medicine, it has been used to treat fever and inflammation. The plant has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including stomach pain, sore throat, and bronchitis.

Wild Gladiolus is a plant that is relatively easy to grow and care for, making it a popular choice among gardeners. The plant requires full sun and well-drained soil, and it can tolerate hot and dry conditions. It is also relatively resistant to pests and diseases, making it a low-maintenance plant.

Wild Gladiolus is a plant that can be used in a variety of settings, including gardens, borders, and naturalized areas. The plant can be planted in groups or mixed with other perennials to create a colorful and vibrant display. The flowers of Wild Gladiolus are also popular for use in cut flower arrangements, making it a versatile plant for both gardeners and florists.

If you are interested in growing Wild Gladiolus, it is important to purchase the corms from a reputable supplier to ensure that they are disease-free. The corms should be planted in the fall, about 6-8 inches deep and spaced about 6 inches apart. The plants should be watered regularly and fertilized with a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy growth and flowering.

In conclusion, Wild Gladiolus is a plant that has many uses and benefits, including its beauty, cultural significance, potential pharmaceutical uses, and ease of cultivation. By learning more about this amazing plant and taking steps to protect and conserve its habitat, we can ensure that it continues to be appreciated and admired for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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