History and origins
Gladioli are originally from South Africa, where they are eaten and used for medicinal purposes (the gladioli that are grown nowadays are not edible though).
Gladioli are synonymous with the Nijmegen four-day marches, the two are inextricably linked. On the last day, when the hikers cross the finish on the Via Gladiola, the mandarin-red gladioli are everywhere. The flowers’ symbolic meanings of victory, strength and pride are perfectly suited to such an event.
The gladiolus is even more inextricably linked with the marches because a new variety was cultivated especially for the marches. The first gladiolus especially cultivated for the marches was presented in 1983, aptly dubbed ‘the Four-Day Marches’ Gladioli’. This is the origin of its characteristic mandarin-red colour. A new variety was introduced in 2016 to celebrate the 100th edition of the Nijmegen marches, the ‘Walk of the World’ gladiolus. This variety is shorter and lighter in shade than its predecessor, making it easier for the hikers to wear; that is a factor of considerable importance, because the hikers usually have quite a way still to go with their gladioli and they rarely end up carrying just one bunch!