Friday, September 26, 2008

Stinkin' Rotten Smelling Flower

5. The Foul-Smelling Starfish Flowers Of Africa

Some of the most notorious carrion flowers belong to the Milkweed Family (Asclepiadaceae), a very diverse plant family characterized by milky-white sap. Several South African succulent genera, including Stapelia, Caralluma and Huernia, resemble spineless, sprawling cacti with strange starfish-shaped flowers. The flesh-colored, hairy blossom of S. gigantea may be 8 to 10 inches across (20-25 cm), with a nauseating stench. Fringes of soft white hairs on the reddish-brown petals superficially resemble a layer of mold growing on rotting matter (at least through the compound eyes of carrion insects). Occasionally grown in southern California, the curious flowers attract flies and maggots when they are in full bloom. Another South African species, S. flavirostris, has strange blossoms that look and smell more like a furry, dead animal than a flower. The striped "zebra flowers" Huernia zebrina also produce an intensely fetid odor as they lie on the desert sands of South Africa. Another genus of climbing milkweeds (Ceropegia) produces striking, malodorous blossoms shaped like a wine glass, often with glistening cilia to attract flies. Like Aristolochia, they detain their visiting flies until the male flowers are mature.

The putrid-smelling starfish flower (Stapelia gigantea) is flesh-colored and covered with soft white hairs. It attracts flies and maggots to the central orifice where the male and female floral sex organs are located.  I found this information here.

These flowers start out as a big closed white plume.  But buddy, when they open you better be ready for the scent.  If you were a fly you'd be in maggot heaven, otherwise you are ready to clip that flower off and take it outside where it belongs.  With the flies.  I have had several blooms in the past but none lately.  I forget to water my cactus sometimes, so it has been a dry year for it.  Quite like a desert?

The first time we had a flower I couldn't wait for it to open.  Then one day it did.  I was walking by the laundry room and smelled a foul odor.  I got closer to the bloom and realized that it was stinking like rotten meat.  I took these pictures and then decided the blooms needed to take a little trip far away from our noses.  They do look just like a starfish.