Plant of the Month – Nov 2017

Stapelia hirsuta
Stapelia hirsuta Linnaeus 1753
(AKA: star flower, carrion flower, aasblom)





Known globally as African starfish flowers, and locally as carrion flowers, members of the genus Stapelia are usually characterised by their foul-smelling flowers reminiscent of the odour of rotting meat. The hairs, coloration and surface mimic decaying animal matter and attract mostly flies, which act as pollinators. The strong carrion scent is sometimes recognisable at a great distance, especially on hot afternoons. Stapelias

are low, perennial succulents. The stems, their surface and branching make them immediately recognisable. Stapelia hirsuta’s stems are almost always erect and are usually uniformly green to reddish with small hair-like structures making them look pubescent.

The Flowers
The flowers are starshaped born usually at or near the base of the plant. The flower color is highly variable, but in the Klein Karoo tend to be solid color, deep red and about 140 mm across. Members of this strictly entomophilous (strongly associated with insects) genus occupy a wide diversity of habitats, mostly in arid areas.

The Smell
The putrid smell of the flowers of many species attracts flies and other insects for pollination (myophily). It has been reported
that flies are sometimes so deceived by the odour that they lay their eggs around the fleshy corona, convinced that it will be a food source for their hatching larvae.

Stapelias are subjects of interest rather than beauty and are frequently grown by collectors of succulents. Some large-flowered species make a good show when grown in masses in the garden. In general they are drought-resistant succulents suited for rockeries, and the small-flowered species are suitable as container plants. They are excellent subjects for a water-wise
garden. The sterile stems are very attractive when planted in full sunlight. When in full flower, pollinators are attracted by the odour. For the eco-friendly gardener this is a way of attracting food for birds and reptiles such as lizards to the garden.

Thanks to SANBI

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