The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 11.5
- courtesy of -
The International Carnivorous Plant Society

Q: Stapelia, etc. (stinky asclepiads)

A: Repeat after me, "These are not carnivorous plants."

Yet another group of smelly plants, this time in the Asclepiadaceae (milkweed family), which have evolved flowers to really really really look and smell like a dead mammal: sun-bleached hairs; skin-like surfaces; soft and pulpy to the touch. The flowers are striped red, orange, and yellow, like meat and fat rotting in the hot sun. Ripples on the flower surface emulate flesh slowly peeling back from the bone. And that smell--disgusting!

The smell comes off onto your fingers, by the way...

Stapelia gigantea, with its massive flowers about 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter, is perhaps king of these monstrosities. I grew this plant for years, and observed that it fools flies perfectly. I have watched gravid flies land on the flowers and disgorge heavy loads of maggots (so lovely to learn that maggots are born live), which then scattered in search of rotting flesh. Presumably someone is getting pollinated out of this absurd and Lovecraftian behaviour. Ugh! Iä! Iä!

Use a search engine. Look up Stapelia gigantea. Be thankful that your computer screen is not scratch 'n sniff!

Page citations: Mabberley, D.J. 1987; Rice, B.A. 2006a; personal observations.

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Revised: March 2009
©Barry Rice, 2005