Tag Archives: stapelia grandiflora

When you wish upon a star….

Did you know?

It’s no secret that the world loves stars. After all, “When you wish upon a star….” More:

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.
—Stephen Hawking

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground
—Theodore Roosevelt

The sight of stars makes me dream.
—Vincent Van Gogh

I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
—Og Mandino

Look at the stars. See their beauty. And in that beauty, see yourself.
—Draya Mooney

There wouldn’t be a sky full of stars if we were all meant to wish on the same one.
—Frances Clark

I would be willing to stake my reputation (what reputation?) on stars being the number one shape of Mother & Father Natures beautiful flowers. Indeed, stars are a significant portion of my book, Nature’s Geometry: Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray(Book is being sent on Monday to publisher for printing
and should be available for purchase around November 1, 2019.)

I am not ashamed to admit that stars happen to be my favorite flower shape, especially when the star is extraordinarily well pronounced, as in these two pictures from this past week of star flowers in my gardens:

Stapelia gigantea
Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia grandiflora
Stapelia grandiflora

Stapelia gigantea by far is my favorite flower ever. The flowers are up to ten inches in diameter, somewhat hairy, feel leathery, and just look like something that an alien Mother & Father Nature might come up with on a star millions of light years away from us.

These two flowers, particularly Stapelia gigantea, attract flies for pollination like today is going to be the last day on Earth for pollination opportunities. They do this by smelling horrible, like rotting flesh. As a friend of mine said, “Lovely….”

Although mine attract flies, I have not yet smelled any rotting flesh, and I even have stuck my nose deep into the flower, after shooing the flies away, of course. I used to think my nose simply wasn’t working properly, but I can smell pizza, Mexican food, and margaritas from miles away. Maybe I just don’t have any “rotting flesh” sensory cells in my nose. Yeah, that’s it.

Stapelia gigantea flowers are so big that it is easy to sit and actually watch the big flower buds open and attract flies. In 2019, I had 23 flowers on my one Stapelia gigantea (there are 17 so far this year), so I started doing time Stapelia gigantea flower lapse photography last year.

Following is my best time lapse video from last year. Note the number of flies enjoying their time at the buffet. This video is 5 hours of photos taken every 5 seconds (3,500 photos!) and condensed into just 1 minute and 4 seconds. The flower on the left opened the previous day, and the middle flower will be opening in the video.

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Friday Flower Fiesta (10-13-17)—Stapelia gigantea

Friday Flower Fiesta

Happy Friday the Thirteenth!Master Gardener

When my wise old grandmother adopted me in December 1965, I found that I was moving in with a Master Gardener eight years before there was such a thing as a Master Gardener.

In September 1968, when I came home from my eighth grade plant biology class with Mrs. Bajza, I asked my wise old grandmother if I could have a small area in her yard to create my own little garden.

Earlier that year, my granddad, two uncles, and I had installed central heating and air conditioning in our South Texas home. Such a system comes with a cooling condenser which sits outside and blows hot air around at hurricane force. The wind and heat kills anything near it. So, of course, the area around the cooling condenser is what my wise old grandmother gave me. I was so sad but I didn’t let her see my sadness.

While I was over at a friend’s house—Richard Schmidt—his parents heard me talking about my useless garden. They offered to take me 70 miles down to the Rio Grande Valley and show me just how useless my garden was not. They introduced me to cactus and succulents, and I bought many on that trip.

I created a rock wall around the cooling condenser to force the hot wind upwards and protect the rest of the little area. Then I created little dry stream beds and a cactus/succulent rock garden. The area I was working with was on the south side of the house, so it got a lot of South Texas sunshine and heat to begin with.

Well, the cactus and succulents absolutely loved it there, and one day they all decided to reward me simultaneously with a magnificent display of flowers. I was so excited that I went running in yelling and screaming for my wise old grandmother to come look. She was impressed, and happy, which made me happy, too.

One of the succulents that I had planted was a Stapelia. They look kind of awkward, like me, so I could identify with them. When it bloomed, it was the most magnificent flower I had ever seen, similar to this one from Wikipedia:

Stapelia gigantea

I now know that what I had was a Stapelia gigantea, the largest flower of the Stapelia species. Sadly, I never took a cutting from that plant when I left home for college at Texas A&M University. And I had never seen another Stapelia gigantea…..

….Until yesterday….

I was wandering around a newly discovered nursery out here in the boondocks, Wally’s World Nursery. Wally’s had five of them, one blooming and two fixin’ to bloom. I brought one home with me:

Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia gigantea is known as the “carrion plant” because its flowers smell like rotting flesh, important to the plant since it needs common flies to pollinate it. Have no fear if you want one of these, though, because you kind of have to rub the flower all over your nose in order to smell it. Flies, on the other hand, can smell rotting flesh from half way around the world….

The flowers get up to ten inches in diameter and are fringed with hairs that can be up to three-tenths of an inch long. The flowers of all Stapelia species are star shaped, some having more than one star in them, and many of them are fringed with little hairs.

I have had other Stapelia species over the years but never Stapelia gigantea. I have had the Stapelia grandiflora, which has the second-largest flower (see second picture below), but I have always wanted  another Stapelia gigantea. Now I have one.

Here are some pictures of Stapelia flowers from my gardens over the years:

Stapelia

Stapelia

Stapelia from the garden of Russel Ray

Stapelia

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