This is the most spectacular of the New Forest’s floral specialities.
The New Forest is the only place in the UK where it grows and there are between 4 and 5 colonies. Numbers had decreased due to people picking or uprooting them, but populations appear to be stable now. It is more widespread in southern Europe.
Due to its rarity it is fully protected in the UK. In the New Forest, the wild gladiolus has quite a specific habitat. It will only grow on the slightly richer clay soils, often in the company of bluebells and wood anemone, but flowering later than them. It always grows under bracken as this hides it from the grazing animals that seem to have a taste for the dark pink flowers.
Because wild gladioli require a canopy of bracken to hide them, it is important that areas where they grow are not targeted for bracken clearance. Bracken has to be managed in the New Forest because it has increased greatly, shading out many more delicate heathland flowers.
Your best chance of finding wild gladioli is to look under areas of bracken in late June or early July, where you have seen wood anemone and bluebells flowering earlier in the year. They can be very difficult to spot amidst the tall bracken. If you lie down in the bracken, the bright flowers can be more easily seen among the bracken stalks (but watch out for ticks if you do this!)