Starfish Flower, Giant Toad Flower, Carrion Flower.... more
Stapelia gigantea - Starfish Flower
Starfish Flower, Giant Toad Flower, Carrion Flower. This is one of the largest flowers in the plant world! Great container plant, Stapelia gigantea, commonly called carrion flower, is a spine-free succulent member of the milkweed (not cactus!) family that is native to dry desert areas from Tanzania to South Africa. The common name comes from the malodorous flower aroma which resembles the smell of rotting meat. For those willing to look the other way on flower aroma, additional common names include giant toad flower or starfish flower. The focal point of this plant is the fleshy, 5-pointed, star-shaped flowers (to 10-16" across), each being pale ochre-yellow with thin transverse maroon lines. Flowers bloom in fall (flower buds are triggered by shortened daylight hours in fall). Flowers are pollinated by flies which reportedly find the carrion aroma irresistible. Spineless, 4-angled, succulent stems grow upright to 8-12" tall before scrambling sideways with the tips still erect. Plants in the ground may grow to 24" wide. Seed pods resemble milkweed and each individual seed has a milkweed-like parachute. Genus name honors Dutch physician Johannes Bodaeus van Stapel (1602-1636).