Friday, August 19, 2011

Stapelia's Striking If A Bit Stinky Show

In a small, terracotta planter,
a Stapelia plant has been growing in my garden for a number of years.
Maybe I imagine that it might have bloomed once before.
But did I jump up and down when I discovered this flower the other day?
Yes, there was a dance of sorts to witness had you been around.

Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens - Desert Garden
(Photo: Wikipedia)

More than a decade ago I visited the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens for the first time, touring the magnificent Desert Garden while
researching my book, Gardenwalks in California.
I'll never forget seeing a mass planting of Stapelia gigantea, with many of the large, strange blooms like starfish... resting on the earth. Each, perhaps 12 inches across.

My flower measures about 2 1/2 inches. I don't mind that it's tiny in comparison.

Also called the Carrion Flower, Stapelia has a reputation for being stinky
to attract flies that pollinate the plant.
Before opening, the flower's early stage begins as a strange, puffy pod-like form.
Altogether odd.
It's been one of my favorite, if all too rare, sights since entering the gardening realm.
Now my own pass-along plant has rewarded me after years of benign neglect.

Succulent plants are fascinating in their diversity. So unlike the beautiful blooms I generally cultivate. But Stapelia stands alone in my mind. I really couldn't conjure up a more intriguing flower form if I tried.


  1. Wonderful! Is this THE stinky flower Huntington is famous for?

  2. Oh gosh that is a strange and interesting looking plant, never mind I may see you dancing on another occasion.

  3. Quite the achievement, Alice. Dare I say: carrion the good work?

  4. Hi Native,
    I wouldn't be surprised if this is THE famed stinky one!

    we've a similar penchant;-)

    Happy dance!!

    I'd so like to be privy to the workings of your uniquely witty mindset. At least get to hang out with you in person to benefit from your sparkling presence.

  5. I think I saw one of these at a botanical is very pretty. After giving it a sniff, I stepped back to only admire the beauty of the flower.

  6. I have seen it before in photos but i didn't know it has that peculiar odor! I wonder if it resembles the scent of the rotting mammal's flesh? That is exactly how our Amorphophallus campanulatus flower smells when in bloom. I've posted it last month. Congratulations on your first bloom, i can relate to your feelings.

  7. Congrats on the bloom. It is always nice when a plant preforms, especially when you are not expecting it to and it is a surprise.