This plant is sometimes commonly known as "carrion flower" or "toad plant." Corpse flowers had been much in the news in Houston last summer because of Lois, the giant corpse flower that was in bloom at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Stapelia gigantea is not the same plant, but it does bear the same common name and for the same reason. Its blossoms are said to smell like carrion and they are pollinated by flies.
I was curious to see how my new stem cutting would grow. It looks a bit like a cactus, a four-sided, spineless cactus, and so I treated it like one. After letting it callous over for a few days, I stuck it in a pot with another plant and then I sort of forgot about it for a while. One day weeks later I happened to glance its way and found that it had rooted and had begun growing a new section. I took it up and put it in its own pot.
Since then, it has grown several new limbs and looks very healthy, and over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed that it appeared to be developing buds. Over the last several days, the growth of the buds has really taken off.
Several buds are visible here, in various stages of development.
Then, just this week, one of the buds swelled to enormous proportions.
How big would it get, I wondered, before it began to open?
I didn't have to wonder long! Yesterday when I went outside, the big bud had popped open. According to the plant's description, its flowers can be as much as 10-16 inches across, but this one is more like 8 inches.
Inside the blossom is this circular fleshy disk, which, if you squint, looks a little like a fly. Perhaps this is meant to help entice flies to come inside? The blossom has a bit of a musty smell but isn't really very carrion-like.
This fascinating plant is native to South Africa. It needs well-drained soil and moderate water and full sun during the growing season. It can withstand extreme heat, as my plant has proved by living on a table in my backyard where it gets the full brunt of the afternoon sun all this extremely hot season. The plant will appreciate a cool, dry place to rest in winter. It spent last winter in my garage and did just fine, so I expect to put it back there this winter. The plant's normal bloom time is September so this one is right on schedule. It is full of many more buds of all sizes so I should be able to enjoy its unusual blooms for many weeks.
Stapelia gigantea really is such an interesting plant and brings back lovely memories of a nice day with gardening friends. As I always say, passalong plants are the very best kind of plants.