This section is from the book "The Botanical Magazine; Or, Flower-Garden Displayed", by William Curtis. Also available from Amazon: The Botanical Magazine; or, Flower-Garden Displayed, Volume I.
Gladiolus Tristis. Square-Leaved Corn-Flag
Cor. 6-partita, ringens. Stamina adscendentia.
GLADIOLUS tristis foliis lineari-cruciatis, corollis campanulatis. Linn. Syst. Vegetab. ed. 14. Murr. p. 86. Ait. Kew. v. 1. p. 63.
LILIO-GLADIOLUS bifolius et biflorus, foliis quadrangulis. Trew. Ehret. t. 39.
GLADIOLUS tristis foliis linearibus sulcatis, caule bifloro, tubo longissimo, segmentis aequalibus. Mill. Dict. ed. 6. 4to.
Linnaeus gave to this species of Gladiolus the name of tristis, from the colour of its flowers, which however possess scarcely sufficient of the sombre to justify the appellation; still less so if they vary in the manner represented in Trew's Ehret, where they are painted in gay and lively colours: in the specimens we have seen, the blossoms have been of a sulphur colour, shaded in particular parts with very fine pencillings, especially on the under side: most authors describe the flowering stems as producing only two flowers, Linnaeus has observed that they sometimes produce many, we have seen them do so where the plant has grown in perfection; in their expansion, which usually takes place in April and May, they give forth a most agreeable fragrance.
It is a native of the Cape, and other parts of Africa; was cultivated by Mr. Miller, and flowered in the Chelsea Garden in the year 1745. Ait. Kew.
The leaves which so characteristically distinguish this species are highly deserving of notice, instances of such rarely occur; as the bulbs produce numerous offsets, the plant is propagated by them without difficulty, and requires the same treatment as other Cape bulbs.