Have you ever smelled a stapelia flower? It isn’t pleasant. In fact, it is rotten. When I was at Matthaei Botanical Garden a few weeks ago all the stapelias and huernias were in bloom. The huernias weren’t smelly, but boy were the stapelias or corpse flowers. I call them  “ripe roadkill” flowers because that is what they smell like. Yuck! But, the flowers are so beautiful or maybe I should say interesting, it is worth getting near to see them.

Closeup

Why so smelly?

Why do they smell so awful, you ask? Flowers are supposed to smell good, right? Well, not if you want to attract a pollinator that likes dead animals. Flies are the pollinators for these flowers so the “fragrance” makes sense, right?

A fly enjoying the carrion flower

This is where the most aroma was

Tricking the flies

It has been reported that flies have laid their eggs in the flowers, thinking it will be a food source for their larvae later. That’s a pretty good trick.

Stapelias are from Africa and the name honors Johannes van Stapel, a 17th-century physician, and botanist.

The flowers below are Stapelia leendertiziae. 

These smelled awful.

Stapelia

A bud ready to open

Huernia zebrina

Below is the lifesaver plant or Huernia zebrina. I have never noticed a smell (just showing it to you since it was blooming and it is so cute) with this one and I grow this in my home. It is an easy succulent and blooms great on my south windowsill.

Stapelia gigantea

Below is the Stapelia gigantea whose flowers can reach upwards of 10 inches. It is a huge flower with a huge smell and the flies love it.

Stapelia gigantea

Have you ever seen or smelled these flowers? Did you know flies pollinate flowers? They really are amazing and collectors of succulents love them.

Have a great week, plant friends!

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