Renowned for having large impressive blooms, Stapelia is a low growing, spineless, clump-forming succulent which comes in a huge variety of different sizes, colours and degrees of hirsuteness—yes, hairiness, because Stapelia petals are curiously furry, like a cat! But that’s not all that’s unusual about this plant. Sometimes described as “starfish flowers” because their flowers are shaped like a five-pointed starfish, Stapelia are also known as “carrion flowers” because of their famously strong scent of rotting meat.
Native to southeastern Botswana, South Africa and southern Zimbabwe, regions without native pollinating honeybees, these plants have adapted to produce flowers that are furry, animal-coloured and scented like carrion in order to attract pollinating flies and ants. Luckily the scent isn’t overpowering and can’t be smelt less than a metre away.
Thriving in well-drained soil in partial sun or indirect light, they love dry but not humid conditions–and take care not to overwater. They produce a long season of flowers and are extremely low maintenance—the ultimate no-fuss flowers. Grow them as conversation starter (what other plants have star shaped, furry and stinky flowers?) or simply to enjoy their unique, ethereal, otherworldly appearance.