Gladioli are popular garden plants that have been cultivated in Europe for more than 250 years and are renowned for their striking, colourful flowers.
Interestingly, these common European garden plants were cultivated from hybrids of wild gladioli native to South Africa.
Gladiolus oppositiflorus, or the Transkei gladiolus, with its large, showy flowers is an important species in the breeding history of a number of Gladiolus hybrids...
Gladiolus oppositiflorus is a representative from the Pondoland Centre of Plant Endemism (PCE), located in a small area between the Mzimvubu River, near Port St Johns, and the Umtamvuna River, near Port Edward, within the region known as the Transkei Wild Coast. This is an area of great natural beauty, and many rare and unusual species are found here.
Because a high number of species are concentrated in such a small area of only about 180 000 hectares, the Pondoland Centre of Endemism is acknowledged by international conservation organizations such as the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), as one of 235 world-wide centres of plant diversity.
Another international organization, Conservation International, included the Pondoland Centre among only 25 global hot spot sites (see CI hotspots ), in need of special conservation efforts. However, locally, very little is being done to conserve the Pondoland floral riches.
Only a few small nature reserves exist within the area, and although negotiations have been going on for years, no national park to conserve the Pondoland Centre has been established to date.
Meanwhile the Pondoland Centre faces severe threats from dune mineral mining, overgrazing, illegal holiday cottage developments and a proposed toll road connecting Durban and East London which could dissect the most sensitive areas of the Centre containing more than 200 endemic or near-endemic plant species.
Distribution and Habitat
Gladiolus oppositiflorus is endemic to the summer rainfall regions of the Eastern Cape north of East London to southern KwaZulu-Natal, from the coast to as far inland as the Lesotho border. It is found in rocky areas in open grassland, often among rocks along streams.
See http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantefg/gladoppos.htm for more information.
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