Stapelia gigantea (Carrion flower, Starfish cactus, Zulu giant)

Native to South Africa, this low-dwelling cactus spreads frequently through stolons. The flowers it produces in autumn are large, pale-yellow, and smell of rotting meat (which is useful in attracting its primary pollinators, flies).

Stapelia gigantea (Carrion flower, Starfish cactus, Zulu giant)
Deciduous: no
Hardiness Zones: 9-11
Height: 10-40 centimeters tall
Diameter: Stems are up to 3 centimeters across. Clumps range anywhere from 1.0-2.2 meters (3-7 feet) in diameter.
Growth Rate: moderate
Age: perennial
Root System: Spreads frequently through stolons (similar to strawberries).
Family: Apocynaceae
Subspecies: none

Tolerates: drought, windy conditions
Problems (major): stem rot, root rot
Problems (minor): The flowers emit the unpleasant odor of rotting meat.
Poisonous: presumably no

Soil requirements: requires good drainage, keep soil mostly dry
Air requirements: not sufficiently researched
Watering requirement: low, only requires watering once the soil is entirely dry, enjoyes frequent watering during warmer times
Sun requirement: full sun

Primary photosynthetic organ: stems
Reproduction by offsets: primarily through stolons
Monoecious or dioecious: monoecious
Monocot or dicot: dicot
Leaf shape: The leaves are hook-shaped spines and are placed on each of the four “flanks” on the stems. The top of the stems look x-shaped with flat, thick portions at every side.
Leaf size: very small, light-green to yellow
Flower structure: 30-45 centimeters across, star-shaped, pale-yellow with crimson stripes and center, crimson-purple hairs on the undrsides, wreaks similar to carcases, pollinated by flies
Flowering frequency: Flowers in September and October. Individual flowers last up to 2 days, but flowers produced in succession may continue for up to 2 months.
Annual/Biennial/Perennial: perennial

Notable characteristics:
These are very easy to propagate by stem or root cuttings, especially since the stolons are so common. Cannot withstand temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

These are commonly used as a groundcover in arid regions.

Sources used:


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