Wednesday Vignette. Starfish Plant.

Six years ago, my lovely friend  from Martinique brought me a tiny bit of a succulent from her mother’s garden. I have nurtured it ever since in the greenhouse.

dsc_0780 One year it had tiny buds which dropped off. Then a few days ago I noticed this.

Over the last three days the bud has ballooned up and got fatter and puffier and I have been getting more and more excited. Today it has opened. Wow!  Its name is Stapelia gigantea. The word ‘gigantea’ is not an exaggeration.
I read on line that these flowers can be 30 cm in diameter, but I just measured it from tip to tip and it is 40 cm. You can see why it is called Starfish plant.


What you can’t see and what my friend didn’t tell me, is that it is also called Carrion Plant, for a very good reason. It must be one of the worst smelling plant ever. Think Dracunculus vulgaris and then intensify it. Of course you wouldn’t have Dracunculus in the greenhouse and so you wouldn’t get the whole rotting flesh-stench experience. It is pollinated by flies and there are plenty buzzing around. Not only the stench, but the the fleshy petals are designed to fool them.

Ok, it is stinky, but I am so glad to have seen the amazing, furry, brown flowers. Obviously I won’t be bringing it into the house. But I do have to keep holding my nose and going for another look. It just doesn’t look real; more as if someone has knitted it out of hairy yarn.

This plant is native to South East Africa and so has to be kept frost free. In the winter it lives on my landing window sill. Fortunately it doesn’t flower in winter.

Wednesday Vignette is hosted by  Anna at Flutter and Hum blog. This meme celebrates exciting  plant combinations, so strictly speaking my Stapelia doesn’t qualify. But I am sure Anna will be indulgent. Anyway, it does combine drama, exoticism and a cunning way of attracting pollinators. Obviously, a flower that looks and smells like rotting flesh isn’t on everyone’s ‘Must Have List’.  But I like it.

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38 Responses to Wednesday Vignette. Starfish Plant.

  1. Christina says:

    Incredible, but one I think I can manage without!

  2. Flighty says:

    How wonderfully exotic. xx

  3. I have a similar plant, but not the giant one. It took 8 years to bloom and it was also a passalong. Luckily, I can keep mine outside. The are really amazing and worth the stink.

  4. annie_h says:

    Wow, what an interesting post, can see why its called the Starfish plant. Think I’m quite glad I can’t smell that one

  5. pbmgarden says:

    Fascinating flower. You have to love nature’s many adaptations.

  6. Beautywhizz says:

    The flowers itself looks amazing and wow, what a size. Nevermind the smell.

  7. Kris P says:

    The flowers are fascinating. I have one in a pot outside where the smell isn’t at all intense – I imagine the smell (I can’t bring myself to refer to is as “scent”) is much more noticeable in a greenhouse setting. Mine flowered last year but shows no sign of doing so this year and I’m afraid that it may be getting too much water from the irrigation system.

    • Chloris says:

      I am not sure how much water they need. In previous years I kept it quite dry but as the buds fell off, this year I have kept it watered. It has several more buds to come.

  8. I see those here and they are currently in bloom and one is weirder than the next.

  9. mrsdaffodil says:

    Very exciting, but also a little creepy! 🙂

  10. annamadeit says:

    40 cm??? Wowza – the one I have is more like 4 cm… Yours must look absolutely fantastic! Notably, the stench of mine is apparently corresponding to its much smaller size – definitely not pleasant, but also not too overly overpowering. Which was good, as it bloomed early this past spring, on my kitchen window sill.

    • Chloris says:

      On your kitchen window sill? Oh my goodness you couldn’ t have this in the kitchen, even in the greenhose, I can only stand it for a few seconds. Are you sure yours is ‘ gigantea’? There are quite a few othe stapelias with smaller flowers.

      • annamadeit says:

        Oh no – I most definitely do NOT have ‘gigantea’… Sorry if I didn’t express that more clearly. The flower I got was only about 4 cm – nowhere near the size of yours. It has spend the summer outside. Hopefully it will reward me with more flowers this spring.

  11. What a fabulous curiousity and,what a crafty friend not to warn you. Love your description of it being ‘knitted out of hairy yarn’.

  12. Chloris says:

    It grows outside in Martinique so I suppose the smell isn’ t so bad. It is an amazing flower.

  13. Bodger says:

    I’m sick with envy. I’m trying to keep a more bijou Stapelia alive, never mind producing flowers. Now that I know that blooms are niffy, I can stop trying so hard. Most enjoyable read, thank you.

    • Chloris says:

      I will send you a piece of this one if you are brave enough to risk the stench.

      • Bodger says:

        Thank you so much for the offer. Please forgive me if I decline. Dracunculus vulgaris keeps me in the house for a fortnight, I dare not invite stinky Stapelia into the conservatory. Do you have a wish list of cacti with which I can assist?

  14. Chloris says:

    Very wise of you, I don’ t suppose I will have many people begging me for a bit. That is very kind of you, but I think I have as many succulents and cacti as I can accommodate in winter. Probably more.

  15. rusty duck says:

    It has that look somehow. As soon as I saw the bloom open I thought.. “this is going to be stinky..” I’m intrigued though. Tempted. Maybe.

  16. Cathy says:

    Yes, like Jessica, I read ‘Stapelia’ and knew it was going to be stinky although thankfully I don’t think I have ever had the ‘pleasure’ of smelling one! It clearly has its attractions, albeit of the hairy knitted type 😉

  17. Chloris says:

    I think ‘ pleasure’ is the wrong word. But is is an amazing flower.

  18. How delightfully disgusting!

  19. It is amazing! Although perhaps on this occasion I should be pleased they haven’t invented smelli-vision. 🙂

  20. bittster says:

    What a bloom! It sure is something, in all its fleshy, smelly, repulsiveness.
    What an experience it must be to come across a rocky glade filled with these in full bloom. I’m sure it happens somewhere so I’m glad you are limited to the one!

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