By: Deb Pavlosky
So, who really wants to grow something called carrion plant? It doesn’t SOUND pretty or like anything anyone would actually want to grow and propagate. But, I am really enjoying watching mine grow and flower. Carrion plants aka starfish plants aka toad plants are in the genus Stapelia. This genus of approximately 50 species originates in South Africa. Carrion plants use their flowers to attract pollinators just like other flowering plants, but the pollinators this plant attracts are blowflies. Blowflies like rotting meat, so yes, Stapelia flowers have been purported to have a less than pleasant smell, much like the corpse flower that many go to museums and botanical gardens to see when in bloom. It’s a novelty and interesting, but also very beautiful in bloom.
The buds look like tiny darts protruding from the stems and grow quite large and almost look like angular balloons with hand-sewn seams before they open. Once the blooms open, they look like hairy starfish. The blooms seem to last a very long time and I have yet to notice the smell, but I do have mine in a hanging basket about 7′ off the ground. So, I don’t get right up next to it.
These plants like bright, indirect light and can be grown indoors near a bright window as well as outside. Full afternoon sun in the Houston area might be too much for this plant, but morning sun with shady afternoons would be ideal. In the colder months, this plant needs to be protected from freezing. I will be bringing mine inside to overwinter. Like all succulents, this plant needs very well draining soil and only occasional watering (some suggest no water during winter). Applying a very light/dilute fertilizer infrequently during the warm/growing seasons will help with plant health and flowering. In the spring, I will transplant mine to a clay pot and also take some cuttings. Cuttings should be allowed to dry and harden over before planting. More carrion plants to share with friends and family! Such a fun and interesting plant to grow and share.