Gladiolus dzavakheticus (sword lily)
The eye-catching sword lily adds beauty to sub-alpine landscapes and lakesides, especially in foggy weather, when only its pink flowers are visible.
Gladiolus dzavakheticus (Photo: David Kikodze, Tbilisi Botanical Garden and Institute of Botany)
Gladiolus dzavakheticus Eristavi
On the Red List of the Caucasus.
Food (corms edible when boiled or roasted), ornamental.
About this species
The generic name Gladiolus means 'little sword' in Latin, and the Georgian common name for G. dzavakheticus translates into English as 'sword'. When collecting seeds from this species in 2009, the Millennium Seed Bank team at the Tbilisi Botanical Garden and Institute of Botany caused a stir when the locals thought they were looking for real swords, as buried artefacts, and were keen to assist in making archaeological discoveries!
Geography and distribution
Gladiolus dzavakheticus is restricted to the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia and Armenia, where it is found in subalpine hay meadows.
Overview: The sword lily is a showy, eye-catching plant, which grows to a height of 60 cm. Its corms (fleshy underground stem bases) are small and round (8-10 mm x 7-8 mm).
Leaves: The lower leaves are shorter than the upper ones, and the longest leaf can reach 50 cm in length, and is usually 2-3 mm wide.
Flowers: The inflorescence bears 4-6 pink flowers during July-August. Gladiolus dzavakheticus can be distinguished from other species in the genus by its loose, open inflorescences.
Fruits: Fruits are produced in October. Reproduction is primarily by seed.
Threats and conservation
Gladiolus dzavakheticus is known from only a few locations in Georgia and Armenia. It grows in subalpine meadows, which are used intensively as hay meadows, and the resulting mowing threatens the populations and reduces the chance of reproduction by seed.
Another threat to the wild populations is the picking for sale of the showy flowers by local residents. The uprooting of plants for their edible corms and picking for cut flowers has greatly reduced their numbers.
The corms are collected by local residents in Georgia and Armenia, as they are edible when boiled or roasted.
Gladiolus dzavakheticus is also used for cut-flowers, and grown as an ornamental.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One
Seed storage behaviour: Likely to be orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive drying without significant reduction in their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)
Eristavi, M. (1977). New species of genus Gladiolus L. from Georgia. Notes on Plant Systematics and Geography. Institute of Botany of Georgian Academy of Sciences, 34:38-40.
Shulkina, T. (2005). Ornamental Plants from Russia and Adjacent States of the Former Soviet Union. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Missouri. Available online.
Kew Science Editor: Vanessa Sutcliffe
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell
Kew would like to thank the following contributors: David Kikodze, Tbilisi Botanical Garden and Institute of Botany
While every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, the notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.