The common name for Gladiolus flanaganii, suicide lily, refers to the death-defying stunts photographers and observers need to perform to see this plant in the wild. Growing on cliff faces in the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa, finding a plant is an adventure not for the timid. Fortunately, this treasure is becoming easier to find in cultivation.
South Africa is the centre of diversity for the genus Gladiolus, with over half of the roughly two hundred and sixty known species growing natively only in that country (i.e., endemic to South Africa). Astoundingly, the interbreeding of only eight of those species have produced the over thirty thousand cultivars of gladiolus known to currently or previously exist (Gladiolus flanaganii is not one of those eight species).
The flowers of Gladiolus flanaganii last little more than a day, then quickly decay. As can be seen from this photograph, the progression from unfurling to senescence occurs first in the bottom-most flowers.