Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to another exciting “Plant of Interest” article for 2017!! This week we’ll be looking at a striking member of the Iridaceae (Iris) family.

Gladiolus crassifolius (Thick-leaved Gladiolus in English, khala-e-nyenyane in Sesotho) is a widespread perennial Iris, occurring in grassveld at altitudes of up to approximately 2000
m A.S.L., where it obtains a maximum height of 100cm.

The Genus name Gladiolus heralds from the Greek short sword after which the leaves resemble; whereas the species name crassifolius is a union of the Latin “crass” meaning rough or tough and “folius” meaning leaves, in reference to the thick leaves.

The thick, firm leaves of this species are held erect by prominent veins, measuring around 600-700mm tall by approximately 100mm wide and are a grass-green to blue-green colour, usually burned brown at the apex. These form a basal sheath of overlapping leaves which spread out into a rough fan. The inflorescence of G. crassifolius is a spike borne aloft a stem; wherein the small flowers (25-40mm in diameter) are a light-deep pink and the lower two lobes have a darker purple blotch. Flowering takes place late summer from January through to March.

This lively specimen was photographed along the Sky Contour Trail in the Clarens Nature Reserve where it usually occurs in small clumps or in isolation.


This species is pollinated by sugarbirds and long-tongued bees and is thus an important species within the grassveld biome.

Traditional uses

It has been used as a treatment for headaches by the Basotho.

Conservation Status

Regarded as of Least Concern by SANBI on account of its stable presence throughout its distribution.


Author: Damien Coulson