Anus Starfish Bloom
Two years ago, my plant buddy Zach sent me a bunch of Philodendron cuttings and threw in a Stapelia, too. I knew nothing about the genus, but I stuck it in a pot, set it in a sunny window, and it’s been growing slowly and happily ever since.
A couple weeks ago while I was watering, I noticed it had a new growth that looked like a flower bud. Over the next few days it just kept getting bigger. And then yesterday, pop!
Plantgasm readers know that I’ve got nothing against stinky plants, and this one isn’t as bad as some, but the smell? Not nice. Pretty much death. Still, it’s an amazing sight to behold. The flower is huge – bigger than the four-inch pot the plant is in – and it’s covered in hair. It looks like a combination of a starfish and an anus.
A Twitter friend said it looked like “the south end of a north-facing critter” and that’s no accident. The anus-like shape and the rotting meat smell is all designed to attract its pollinator – blow flies.
When the smell of my little houseplant got to be too much for me, I set it outside. Within minutes it was swarmed with an orgy of flies. One even up and died, in the center of the plant, in what I hope was an orgasmic moment of joy. As pollinator attractors go, the Stapelia knows what it’s doing.
By the next day, the flies were gone, but in their place? Maggots. Apparently the flower is so convincing, the flies lay their eggs in it, thinking it’s going to be a tasty place for their young to be born. Unlike other insect/plant deals in nature, this one is entirely one-sided. The Stapelia gets its pollen moved, but the baby flies can’t feed on the flower and die.
In my case, this plant isn’t coming back inside until I’m sure the process is entirely complete. I may love my stinky plants, but I draw the line at maggots.