roadkill flower

When I got home Monday it was almost dark, one of the sure signs that summer is over. Out in the garden a pot of Stapelia gettleffii was showing off its first flower of the season. It was dark enough that I had to use the camera flash.

I’ve only had this South African plant for a few months and this was its first bloom for me. Elaborately striped and fuzzy with hairs that look like fur, I’m trying to decide whether the flower is “pretty” or not. It’s definitely in the weird and wonderful category, though. The flies like it too, mainly because it’s gently fragrant like something that’s been run over on the interstate.

I’ve grown another of these carrion flowers, Stapelia gigantea, for a few years now. That plant has flowers that last for just a day, and I was expecting the same thing with this species. But when I went out earlier today that first flower was still open, drawing a small crowd of adoring flies. (They got camera-shy for this shot.)

This is a frost-tender plant, so it’d work only if you brought it indoors for the winter in regions colder than zone 10. I’m not sure I’d want this as a houseplant when it’s flowering, but it fortunately blooms before it gets so cold outside that you’d have to bring it inside.

Pretty or not, it’s definitely a conversation-starter.

9 thoughts on “roadkill flower”

  1. Ah, Stapelia… one of my all-time favorite specimens! I’m unfamiliar with this one, but such fantastic photos.
    I did have a bloom or two at one time on my Stapelia which I believe is gigantea, but not these past few years.

    (James, take a peep at Bay Area Tendrils at day’s end. I’m finally getting around to shout-outs that have been on my mind for a long time.)

  2. Love, love, love Stapelia. Nature is amazing–makes sense that fly pollinated flowers should smell like rotting meat! I have snapped several pictures of this flower the past few weeks down here in Florida where its a favorite potted plant. The puffy flower buds are neat, too.

  3. I had a big argument with my mom over the difference between “pretty” and “Beautiful” (it had something to do with Streisand’s nose, as I recall). My definitions go something like this: pretty is pleasing to look at, while beautiful has depth of character. I’d call your flower beautiful. It almost looks like it is made of fabric.

  4. Loree, nothing wrong with odd. The flower wilted in yesterday’s heat–I’m not sure if it was what it usually does or whether I let the pot go too dry. Five days is pretty good, though.

    Alice, thanks for the shout-out! Hopefully your gigantea decides to bloom. Mine should be open in a day or two.

    TM, there’s one species in the genus of 40 or so that actually smells nice. I should try to get my hands on a cutting.

    Colleen, I think Florida would be an even better place to grow this. I gave Jennifer in South Carolina a cutting of S. gigantea, and it sounded like it was growing better for her than for me.

    Ricki, this all reminds me of the 18th and 19th century debates of artworks that were either picturesque, beautiful or sublime. Streisand’s nose? Definitely not picturesque, but I can see the argument for beautiful. Probably not “sublime,” which one critic reserve for scenes with “an agreeable kind of horror.”

  5. I have one of these indoors – the blooms do indeed stink, but only for a bit, and the beauty and uniqueness of the blooms make up for the smell.

    My concern is whether they’re poisonous or not. My cats like to bite the stems, and then lick them. Doesn’t seem to hurt them any, but I wonder what the cats see in it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *