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:
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.
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?
Blowflies think stapelia flowers are the cat’s meow. I can hear them buzzing when I step out onto the porch.
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.
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.
After a few days, the flowers wither and curl up again (left in the next photo).
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.
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.