The Stapelia gigantea Cactus Flower (Carrion flower)


Let me tell you, I love the Stapelia Cactus!  There are many types of Stapelias, I have three:  Stapelia scitula, a very small cactus with small fuchsia-colored flowers; Stapelia grandiflora, a bigger cactus with large grand (hence the name) hairy pink flowers; and Stapelia gigantea, which puts out this gigantic pale yellow and pink hairy flower…again, hence the name!  Apparently, some of the flowers on this particular Stapelia can reach up to twelve inches in diameter!


Apart from the spectacular flowers, known as Carrion flowers, I love Stapelias because they are smooth and velvety - no treacherous spines, like most cacti.  This cactus propagates very easily from cuttings  (twisted off at segments) and is very hearty.  I've learned that flowers usually come out on newer parts of the plant, so it's best to take cuttings from older growth.  And now, for the downside…  The flower of the Stapelia cactus depends on flies for pollination, so it emits a powerful gross odor to attract them (and beetles too) - a smell akin to rotting meat or a dead animal!  I had the two other Stapelia cacti for a while before I got this one, and I never noticed a foul odor from any of their flowers.  However, the day this one bloomed I could smell it immediately - I'm guessing due to its larger size!  For this reason, the Carrion flower is also known as the Corpse flower or the Stinking flower.  Don't let that deter you though, I highly recommend this plant regardless - it's a minor downside to its infinite beauty.  The moment you see that giant bulb forming and watch its rapid growth/transformation/eventual opening, you'll know what I mean.  ;)

As you can see in these photos that I took during the last bloom, I could barely get a shot without a fly cameo!  As time went by I started to enjoy photographing the bold fly, after all, he was just going about his business duties to fulfill an important obligation in nature's intricate system.  Clearly I'm still fascinated by this plant, even after all these years.  Enjoy!

Catherine


For more details on the Stapelia cactus and its varieties see below:

More of my garden posts:
Garden Tours (all posts)
My Garden (all posts)
My Mother's Garden (all posts)




When it first bloomed, it was on a ceramic garden stool in the patio. Even though it looked gorgeous there and we could see it through the back door from the sofa, it was stinking up the vicinity so I moved it to the table out on the deck near the pool…





Shortly after I moved the strawberry pot planter and began photographing the flower, the fly returned...









And because they bloomed at nearly the same time, here is the flower on my Stapelia grandiflora:



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