Carrion flowers are not for sensitive noses. The plants, also known as disgusting flowers, exude a carrion-like smell. It is designed to attract certain insects to pollinate flowers. The Stapelia gigantea is one of these plants. Its flowers can grow up to 40 cm in diameter. If you are still not averse to cultivating this plant, you can find out more about the carrion flower here.

Aasblume, Stapelia gigantea 

The Stapelia gigantea is around 25 cm high, the upright growing stems of the succulent can be up to 3 cm thick. These trunks grow remarkably straight upwards because their growth is determined by a so-called tropism. Tropisms are extremely exciting, they lead to the heart of the question of whether and how plants live and whether the (only) difference to other living beings is that plants are tied to one place.

Even the biological classification of living beings (= organized units with metabolism, reproduction, irritability, growth, evolution …) is often not familiar without looking it up and is quite exciting, the current attempt at a meaningful grouping looks like this:

  • At level 1, three domains are distinguished: the ‘actual’ bacteria, archaea (archaebacteria) and eukaryotes.
  • Bacteria and archaea include all living things without a cell nucleus, called prokaryotes.
  • Eukaryotes are the higher living things with a nucleus, divided into Stage 2:
  • Amorphea (above all animals, fungi), Diaphoretickes (above all the entire plant kingdom) and Excavata (better known as flagellates, a kind of 1.5 cell).

There is a lot going on in the first two domains, we humans exist e.g. B. from 10 trillion cells, live on and in us 100 trillion bacteria; in the archaea there are three major divisions, with creatures that live in environments below 0 or above 100 °C, in and from salt and acid, sulfur and ammonia, CO2 and hydrogen, and the latter “digest” to methane (natural gas). “ – if you have the feeling that you are not completely alone in the world, you are absolutely right.

But our main interest is usually domain 3, with animals, fungi and plants, which also has many, many surprises to offer; e.g. B. tropism, which concerns the area of ​​”plant movement”. Plants are nowhere near as tied to one place as we usually assume, but move, stimulated by a wide variety of stimuli. Some plants are even able to move autonomously, on their own, without any external stimulus.

Most of the wondrous stapeliads also move. They receive so-called gravitropistic stimuli, which means that they align their growth with gravity.

The flower is also wondrous. First off, it’s massively oversized for the rest of the plant, measuring up to 40cm in diameter. Then this flower has a really idiosyncratic shape, pattern and texture. Five large leaf tips surround a deep star-shaped funnel, burgundy or beige in color, with a peculiarly shriveled surface. It is smooth as silk, but has fine hair all over it.

The flower developed all this “fuss” with ulterior motives. Wine red and beige should make the flower look like a magnificent piece of meat. A pretty rotten piece of meat, as the hair on the surface suggests as a “mold imitation”. Together with the right smell, the whole flower is a single deception or trap to lure carrion flies to lay their eggs on the supposedly so nutritious flowers. So does the fly. She pollinates the flowers as soon as she lays her eggs, but doesn’t do her larvae any favors, which starve to death on the “sham meat”.

Nothing for sensitive noses

The smell that goes with the “long, filling meat meal” is the finest smell of carrion. This is the reason why perfumers, sommeliers or people blessed with a good sense of smell among the hobby gardeners give the Stapelia gigantea a wide berth.

Because the gigantic flower of the Stapelia gigantea produces a lot of that carrion smell. It produces a “high-quality” carrion odor due to amines, which are also responsible for the distinctive smell in fish that have been dead for a very long time.

Anyone who has space in which to view a blooming Stapelia gigantea from quite a distance or to put it out on the balcony while it is in bloom can enjoy this distinctive exotic plant without having to worry about a lot of effort.

As a succulent, the Stapelia is one of the easy-care plants anyway. The Stapelia gigantea in particular has no special requests. In her homeland, African dry areas, she is anything but spoiled. Here she grows contentedly with the slightest attention.


As mentioned, Stapelia gigantea comes from Africa, tolerates outdoor climate zone 9 to 11 with the lowest winter temperatures between −3.9 °C and +10.0 °C, so it can only be kept as a houseplant in our country.

It needs a very bright place in the room, but should not be grilled through the window pane on hot summer days.

She likes warmth, dry air too, and a little space: the carrion flower constantly develops new shoots on the sides, pots or hanging baskets should allow her to do that.

When it’s warm, the carrion flower likes to be outdoors, because it finally gets a lot of light (still not the same light intensity as in Africa, but still). But the same applies here: Shade something in the bright midday sun.

The care of the carrion flower

Stapelias are succulents, meaning they store water in their thick shoots. If you’re growing them from seed, fill the sprouts evenly as the plant grows. With such an even supply, the carrion flower needs very little water, just a little more during flowering.

If you buy a carrion flower, it may be different. Depending on how the plant was cared for commercially, it may need to be refilled first. It depends on how the small pillars work. If they have enough, but not too much water stored, they stand up nice and taut.

Once that’s the case, you should start watering rather cautiously. Just so that the carrion flower doesn’t have to fall back on the supplies in the pillars. Easily said, sure, but if you know what to look out for, a little observation will give you a sense of how much water your Stapelia gigantea needs on average.

It is said to withstand a little too much drought rather than a root zone that is too wet. If it becomes wilted or limp, it begins to dry out. The love of warmth also applies to water. So not fresh and cold from the tap, but let stand before watering.

If you repot the carrion flower annually, you do not need to fertilize it additionally, there is enough fertilizer in the potting soil. If not, you can give some liquid fertilizer during the growing season, especially from April to July, for a magnificent bloom. Normal potting soil is suitable as a substrate, which is loosened up with some fine gravel.


You can grow stapeliads from seeds. Whether these can be their own seeds from the flower depends on whether a carrion fly (blowfly) has come by for pollination. Otherwise you can order the seeds (individually or in pairs) on the Internet. The sowing and rearing should not pose any major problems. If you have a large amount of seeds, it is probably advisable to study several growing instructions.

If you don’t have any breeding ambitions, but just want to multiply (clone) the Stapelie, you can do this very quickly with a cut off shoot (side shoot). Cut off at the thinnest point, leave to dry for 48 hours, root in a soil-sand mixture.


Stapelias should be given a break in winter, as there is no longer enough light here for them to continue growing. In addition, you get a cool place (11 to 15 °C) and limited supply, i.e. only enough water that the root area does not dry out completely.

If you do not have a suitable room, you can also overwinter the carrion flowers warm. If they are to continue to grow vigorously, they need artificial plant light. They usually survive “just like that” through cultivation, but they are so weak that they do not flower in summer due to lack of vigour.

species and varieties

The genus Stapelia belongs to the milkweed family, a subfamily of the dogbane family.

There are 45 Stapelia in total, around 30 of which can be found in cultivation, so it is definitely a plant for collectors. Stapelia come in all sizes, and the expressive blooms take on any shape and shade of red, pink, or yellow imaginable.

The Stapelia gigantea is the Stapelia with the largest, but neither the most beautiful nor the most unusual flower, there are completely different candidates:


  • Sandy clavicorona, cedrimontana, flavopurpurea, gariepensis, glanduliflora, leendertziae, pulvinata similis

A little search is definitely worth it before you simply reach for the commonly available Stapelia gigantea and the equally widespread Stapelia grandiflora (with rather unattractive flesh-colored to dark brown flowers).

This search can lead you to exchange markets, otherwise the distinctive plants are usually traded in cactus nurseries. Although not cacti, the cactus family belongs to the order Carnidae, quite a distance from the milkweed family dogbane to the order Gentians. But although suculentus no longer means “succulent” and succulents can be found throughout the plant kingdom, they are most often looked for among cacti, and that’s where traders trade them.

Other Ace Blumen

In the plant genera of the milkweed family there are some other carrion flowers with striking succulent shoots and expressive flowers:

  • In the Caralluma z. B. the Caralluma acutangula and the Caralluma stalagmifera in culture
  • There are 21 species of carrion flowers among the Duvalia, several of which are cultivated
  • The Orbea have z. B. the Orbea variegata (flower in a chic tiger pattern) to offer
  • The hoodia gordonii used medicinally is known
  • Huernia presents several very separately formed ash flowers: Huernia hislopii, Huernia occulta and Huernia thuretii z. B.

If you just want to know how to protect your nose: Arum, hazelnut species (Asarum), rafflesia (Rafflesia arnoldii), milkweed (Vincetoxicum hirundinaria), milkweed (Asclepias) and wax flowers (Hoya) also give off the smell of carrion.

The carrion flower is a great plant for indoor gardeners with a penchant for the unusual. Very distinctive shape and effect, huge, unusual flowers, easy to keep, easy to care for, easy to propagate. Whether those with a good sense of smell will be happy with stapeliads, however, depends on being able to place them in a spot where they can be admired from a reasonable distance while they are in bloom – the fake flower gives off a really pungent carrion smell.

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