Thursday, September 17, 2009

Random plant event: Stapelia NOID flower buds?

About two months ago, I bought this plant at the consignment store:

I hadn't planned to buy it, originally. I was just looking at it. Stapelias are one of those plants I only ever see for sale at the consignment store (like Cissus quadrangularis); we never got any in where I worked, nor were we ever even offered any. So I picked it up, to look at it more closely, and I felt, and saw, a big chunk of it fall off. So I figured I was more or less committed to buying it, then, but that was okay, because I was kind of interested anyway.

In the two months since then, it lived outside for a while, but it was getting sunburned, turning red and brown and looking unhappy, so I brought it in. Then it all turned back green again (which I was not expecting to happen, or at least not so fast: I half thought it was going to be permanent). And then a few weeks later, I picked it up to water it, and I noticed this on one end:

It looks like a couple flower buds, to me, though one of them is off-colored, kind of yellowish, and I'm thinking that might mean it started but then gave up for some reason. They're both awfully small, in any case. So I'm wondering if anybody can confirm that this is in fact a Stapelia flower bud, first of all, and second, tell me what I should be doing to keep it progressing normally.

I told the husband that I thought we had a Stapelia flower bud, and that this was exciting because they're supposed to smell really bad, like either rotting meat (the usual description) or dead mouse (occasionally), and he got this really odd facial expression and said he guessed that would be nice, maybe. I'm looking forward to finding out how bad the smell really is (I've heard conflicting things).

But first, we have to establish that this is even a bud in the first place. Maybe I'm getting all excited over a misshapen aerial root or something.

Oh -- also, this is technically not a NOID, because the pot had a newspaper clipping taped to it when I bought it, identifying it as a Stapelia gigantea. I still consider it a NOID because I have no idea how reliable the previous owner's sources were, and there's not an easy way to tell Stapelia species apart until they flower. So it's probably gigantea, but I'm not sure about that.


Claude said...

It certainly looks like a S. gigantea... the bloom will prove it if it is... When mine bloomed last year, it smelled like rotten hamburger. How bad the smell is depends a lot on where it is... in a house, where the odor can hang around and not dissipate, it could be pretty unbearable. Outside, where the it can "air out" so to speak, it's not that bad if you're a few feet away... and the carrion flies find it fascinating. mine bloomed last year, and is forming buds now... the buds are neat too... they inflate like balloons... quite cool.

our friend Ben said...

Er, I'm with Claude, Mr. S. Stapelias are fascinating, and the flowers certainly look amazing, but get it out of the house if that bud matures and opens or you'll have housefly hell along with the smell! You can admire it just as well outdoors...

Karen715 said...

Just as an added note, while I don't own any stapeliads, in my experience, lots of succulents turn red/brownish outdoors. For example almost all of my aloes are reddish brown now, but will turn green again once I bring them in for the winter. This coloring is more like a suntan than a sunburn, which definitely looks like scorching or bleaching. Unlike a human suntan, I don't believe this temporary coloring is indicative of any actual damage.

patty said...

Looks like a young bud to me, too! My Mother has S.gigantea and it is sooo cool when it blooms despite the smell. I bought
Stapelia scitula on a trip to Tuscon a couple of years ago and it blooms all the time, small maroon starfish shaped flowers about the size of a nickle. I love the feeling of anticipation you get when something cool is about to bloom!

Lance said...

My mother had one, and for many years it bloomed every summer. Thankfully only after we took it outside. The smell was intense, and we had to spray it frequently to keep the maggots from hatching. Despite it's rather disgusting habits, I always liked the thing. It's blooms were huge, from 8 to 10 inches across, like a big starfish with black hair. Before they opened, they were like huge balloons. It was one of the most fascinating plants of my childhood, and I do miss having it.

lynn'sgarden said...

Did you know BEFORE buying this cool looking plant that the added bonus was it's rotten meat fragrance?! Okay, that is Strange!

mr_subjunctive said...


Yeah, I know some plants do that without it hurting them. I just didn't know in this particular case, and it seemed to come on really quickly, so I panicked and brought it in. It would have to come in sooner or later anyway, so no big deal.


You didn't want the maggots hatching? What do you have against maggots? (Kidding. Mostly.)


I knew it was likely, yes. I didn't think it was likely to bloom, though, indoors, so I didn't anticipate having this particular problem. Hopefully the bloom will happen and be finished before it gets too cold to put it outside: if the smell really is that bad then I probably don't want it in the house.

alicefz said...

I inherited one of these many years ago. I stuck it on the enclosed front porch and forgot about it.

One day I walked onto the porch and heard this loud buzzing. You know, like those scenes in the movies where flies are going after a cow carcass?

It only took a minute to discover that the flies were being lured by the huge, rather evil-looking flower, that smelled like a dead cat.

It promptly went outside and lived there permanently. Apparently, the common name for it is "Carrion Cactus." UGH!

Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ said...

I just want to say in defense of huernias and stapelias that not all varieties of them have an objectionable odor. Some bloom with those spectacular flowers and don't smell at all! However, S. gigantea doesn't happen to BE one of those!
Maybe the first bud yellowed off because of moving it to a different environment. Hopefully the 2nd one will continue growing. If not, don't worry, it will have more in time!

Tom said...

Look like buds to me, too. I had an S. variegata many, many years ago. Wasn't too challenging, but plants in this group can be a little touchy in their winter dormancy (root rot) some more then others; they can also be mealybug magnets (stems and roots). If the flowers get fertilized the pods are two large horns, very cool too. The pieces that fall off are like cactus joints, another way for them to spread. I've read renewing them with fresh soil in a new pot every few years is a way to stay ahead of root problems.