chopstick and succulents

Why This Flowering Stapelia Has A Stinky Smell 

Stapelia gigantea succulent
Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia gigantea aka Starfish Flower has velvety-green, spineless stems that can grow upright to about 8-12 inches and is clump-forming.

If you’ve seen a lot of this plant being posted online lately, that’s because this is their season to bloom!

When the days become shorter and the temperature becomes cooler, it triggers these plants to produce this beautiful massive flower. 

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There are so many interesting things you need to know about this exotic plant. So, let’s get to know more about Stapelia gigantea.

This plant is commonly called Starfish Flower obviously because of its shape. It has five points and does indeed look like a starfish.

It is also commonly called Zulu giant as this plant is truly gigantic and native to South Africa where the Zulu people are one of the ethnic groups.

Another common name for this plant is the Giant Carrion flower.

Carrion flowers are also known as corpse flowers. This is because they emit an odor that smells like rotting flesh.

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Although this plant may resemble a cactus, it does not actually belong to the Cactaceae family. To belong to the Cactaceae family, a plant needs to have a special structure called areole, and this plant does not have one.  Stapelia gigantea is a succulent plant belonging to the milkweed family. 

Plants belonging to the milkweed family contain a white milky sap.

What’s most interesting about this plant is its flowers.

Stapelia gigantea
Flowering succulent plant-Stapelia gigantea

It produces these flashy flowers often growing in the lower portion of the plant. The flower is surprisingly bigger compared to the actual body of the plant.  

Most flowers are fragrant but this one stinks!

It has a peculiar scent-—that of a dead animal’s rotting body.

The perception of the smell varies for each person. Some can hardly smell it unless they bring the plant closer. Others can strongly smell the unpleasant odors.

Because of its smell, the flower is known for being an appetite suppressant.

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Succulent cuttings for sale

And there is a very interesting reason for its smell.

The rotting smell like that of dead meat attracts flies for pollination.

And, it does not only imitate the smell, but it also mimics the animal’s flesh.  It’s yellowish-brown in color,  has a silky, leathery texture with fine hairs and dark red lines.

So, its large size, its general appearance, and its smell not only deceive the flies to visit. but it also encourages them to stay longer. Sometimes, the flies are so convinced that they even lay eggs on the flowers!

The flowers are short-lived and may last only for 2-3 days, sometimes shorter less. So, the moment you see the flowers open, snap a picture because the next day, they might not open anymore.

Closed flower of Stapelia gigantea

This plant is easy to grow and adapts well to new locations. If you are interested to grow this strange plant, here are some tips you need to know:

Important Tips You Need To Know

  • It grows well in sandy or well-draining soil. Therefore, when planting this, amend the soil and add more inorganic materials like Perlite, or rocks to allow more water to pass through.
  • This plant can be grown in full sun but in hotter climates, make sure to provide them with some protection. In the wild, they get shelter from rocks and shades of bigger plants.
  • It grows in summer and may go dormant in the winter. So, allow it to rest and keep the soil dry when they are dormant.
  • Stems are prone to rotting when kept moist longer. Regular watering is needed during their growing season but keep them on the drier side to prevent root rot. Stems are prone to rotting when kept moist longer. 
  • They can also get infested with pests like mealybugs. Periodically check for the presence of whitish spots or unusual changes on their skin.
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If you want to grow more of this plant, let me share with you some propagation tips.

How To Propagation Stapelia Gigantea

The best time to propagate this is during springtime.

You can trim the plant and get some cuttings. 

To effectively grow this plant from cuttings, allow the cut ends to callus for several days before planting. This is a drought-tolerant plant and the cuttings can survive for days without being planted nor watered.

Propagate via offsets

You can also separate the offsets and plant directly.

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Now that you know this plant more, would you like to grow this too?

Whatever succulent plant you are growing in your garden, try to identify them and get to know them more. By doing so, you’ll not only provide them the right care they need but you’ll also be amazed of how unique these plant are.