Wicked Flowers for Halloween

Wicked Flowers for Halloween

stapelia flower starfish shaped
Star shaped flower bud of the Carrion Flower stapelia gigantea with flies buzzing around the newly opened flower. They love the smell of the rotting meat that the flower emits.

Stapelia gigantea is a bizarre garden surprise every fall.  The succulent plant has balloon shaped flower buds that grow and spill all over the porch every year just as October begins.  Once the flowers begin to slowly unfurl, hairs appear on the star shaped flower’s petals.  The flowers are the size of plate, about 10 inches across and actually pretty cool looking. Right now the first ones are just beginning to open.  So what makes Stapelia gigantea so wicked?  Its common name is the Carrion flower.  As the name implies, it smells just like something dead and the flies love it!  The smell is very much like rotting meat.  It is only noticiable if I am within a foot or two of it.  But once it starts flowering, when my daughter, B, isn’t around, I usually try to scoot it as far from the front door as possible.

Years ago B was given the first single branch succulent cutting from an elderly neighbor, to add to her ever growing potted succulent collection.  At the time, we didn’t know the plant’s name or that it would eventually attract flies.  Although the plant is pretty neglected except infrequent watering, the plant manages to thrive.  Stapelia gigantea is definitely one of the those “do nothing” kind of plants here in our zone 10 garden.  Generally, the Carrion Flower plant is ignored most of the time. It has managed to crawl over the edges of its pot and slowly sprawled all over the place.  Despite the awful smell, we have grown to like it.  B likes it so much she now has three of them in different pots.  Her plants get only about 3 hours of sun a day.  A branch broken off can easily root anywhere it is planted.   The Stapelia gigantea is so happy that it has bloomed every autumn since its third year and with perfect timing for Halloween.  The plants that get just a little more sun also get more flowers.

alien flower succulent stinks
Star shaped petals starting to open. The carrion flower sticks of rotting meat to attract flies for pollination.

What I know about this succulent plant:

  • Botantical name: Stapelia gigantea
  • Common name: Carrion Flower
  • Easy to Grow
  • Drought tolerant
  • Grows about 9-12 inches tall and spreads a few feet at the most.
  • Looks like a cactus, but doesn’t have prickly spines
  • Perennial
  • Grows outdoors in USDA zones 9 -11.
  • Doesn’t mind partial shade
  • Flowers stink like rotting meat
  • Star shaped Flowers attract flies
  • Flies are its pollinator
  • Can be propagated by cuttings
  • Flowers only last a day or two once they are fully opened
stapelia flower carrion flower
the flower bud just before it opens to resemble a starfish

3 thoughts on “Wicked Flowers for Halloween

  1. Stopping by my cousins new nest yesterday, these are in her front planter and are so beautiful! I didn’t notice any smell, thankfully, but she said she thought they were giant Venus fly traps. I’d never seen them, so was researching and your page came up! Thanks for all the cool info on them. She’s going to rip them out ! I think I might take them, plant them on my side yard, because hopefully and/or theoretically, it will keep flies away from doors(?). I wish I could find a plant like this that ate MOSQUITOS! 🙂

    But thank you for the info!
    Karen in Florida

    1. I am happy to hear the info helped, and I hope you enjoy your new plants.

      I have a friend that collects succulents, and he recently attended a cactus and succulent sale at the LA Arboretuem, and he told me a few vendors were selling one gallon sized carrion flowers for $30 -$40. Needless to say, he was trilled when I gave him some divisions.

      Our plants are flowering like crazy this fall. I moved them to a bit sunnier spot at the beginning of the summer and gave them some bone meal and they have been flowering non stop since mid August.

I would love to know what you think about this.

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