Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stinky time again

October 11: It’s the middle of October. While most people are thinking of pumpkins in anticipation of Halloween, I’ve been looking forward to something else. Here’s a clue:

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Our front porch will soon be filled with a smell that is, well, quite interesting.

October 13: My Stapelia gigantea is about to unfold its alien-looking flowers.

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October 14: Aaahhhh. Who doesn’t love the putrid smell of rotten meat, not to mention the hairy, leathery texture that brings to mind decomposing animal skin?

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Blowflies think stapelia flowers are the cat’s meow. I can hear them buzzing when I step out onto the porch.

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Female flies, thinking they’ve found a mother lode of rotting meat, deposit their eggs in the center of the flower, the “corona.” As they fly off, they take pollen with them, which will hopefully be transferred to another stapelia flower, thereby ensuring fertilization.

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October 16: The photo above shows a pristine flower.

October 19: The photo below shows one with fly eggs and hatched maggots. Since there’s nothing for the maggots to eat, they simply die.

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After a few days, the flowers wither and curl up again (left in the next photo).

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Fortunately, my Stapelia gigantea has more flowers this year than ever before. And since the pot is on a table, the flowers face up instead of down as they did last year. So I will be able to enjoy this spectacle for another week.

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My Stapelia gigantea currently resides in a pot on the front porch table. It’s in the shade 90% of the time and gets maybe an hour of direct sun in the late afternoon. Clearly it loves its environment. In the spring, fall and summer, I water it once a week, just enough for the excess to start running out of the drain hole, and fertilize it once a month with dilute Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food. That’s the same fertilizing regime I use for all my succulents (I get a 15-lb box of Miracle-Gro at Costco every couple of years). In the winter, I don’t water it at all.

My plant is outside all winter, although it’s quite protected on the front porch (temperatures there don’t drop much below freezing). I don’t know what its exact cold tolerance is, but Dave’s Garden says zone 9a (20°F). Personally, I would protect it if temperatures are expected to drop below 25°F.

17 comments:

  1. Okay, you may have to pinch your nose for a few days but it's so worth it for those, I'd say rather beautiful blooms (yes even with the maggots!).

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    1. They are among the most fascinating inflorescences I've ever had in my garden. The smell is part of their uniqueness.

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    2. Where may I buy one of these cactus's????

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    3. Lorraine, these fairly easy to find. You can look on eBay. Simply search for "stapelia gigantea."

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  2. Now all you need is the Voodoo lily to go with it!

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  3. I've only ever heard about the smell, but haven't yet experienced it myself. I didn't know flies laid their eggs in there, that is quite fascinating. Potentially a great way to (slightly) reduce the fly population around your home!

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    1. The smell is barely noticeable unless you get up close. Which is what I encourage everyone to do :-).

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  4. It's the hairs that get me, they are just a little too, well, human.

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    1. The hairs are bit freaky but not as bad as the maggots. They make my skin crawl.

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  5. They don't take sun? I'd like one out on the slope where I can enjoy the flowers at a respectful distance.

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    1. Gail, they should do even better in the sun. I'm surprised mine is blooming as well as it is without much sun.

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  6. I´ve always loved this flower...although I´ve never seen one in person... the maggots are a bit disgusting but is worth it! Congratulations for your flowers!!!!

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    1. The cuttings are easy to root. I hope you'll get a chance to come back to California. Come by and I'll give you a few cuttings!

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  7. That plant is fantastic! I really have trouble with this kind of plant. Not sure why. I have gotten mealy bugs on them many times. One time it was so bad I had to throw it away. Cool flowers on this one and great shot of the maggots! LOL

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    1. And yet, you have no mealybugs on plants that get eaten alive in my garden. Funny, isn't it?

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  8. Amorphophallus titanum was the first corpse flower I smelled. It actually doesn't smell too bad... sorta just like putrid garbage. Almost got me thinking that maybe corpses don't smell too bad, hehe.

    But wow. I can't wait until my Stapelia gigantea blooms. They were on my wishlist for a while and I'm still pretty surprised that I found them on the side of the road here. I guess I'll have to wait for next year until my dear maggot cradles form!

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