Stapelia variegate: Carrion Flower

The last plant in this section belongs to the popular and widely-grown genus Stapelia. The more than 100 species are mostly native to South Africa. They form clumps of stems either entirely without leaves or only with rudimentary leaves.

The species is one of the commonest. The clumps of stems are barely 10 cm (4 in) high and coloured pale green or grey green. The buds, which grow on short stalks from the base of the plant, are large and pale green and develop into flowers up to 8 cm (3 in) across, coloured greenish yellow with brownish-red spots.

More attractive is the larger Stapelia grandiflora, which has quadrangular stems up to 30 cm (1 ft) high with rudimentary leaves on the edges. The flowers are brownish red, up to 20 cm (8 in) across, and covered with long hairs over the entire surface. Equally long hairs cover the flowers of S. hirsute, a smaller species, which are coloured an undefinable blend of red, brown and violet.

In the wild, stapelias are often found growing in sandy areas at the edge of alluvial deposits and on landslides as well as on stony banks and rock fractures, where they form large cushions.

Propagation is very simple. In the home the plants are usually multiplied by vegetative means — by breaking or cutting off one of the stems. The cut should be left to dry in the sun for several days and may be dusted with crushed charcoal to prevent it from rotting. The cutting should then be inserted in dry sandy compost where it will form roots. Water should be applied carefully but not until one month later.

Stapelias may be also be readily propagated from seeds, which are produced in great numbers in follicles. They are flat and furnished with a long pappus. Germination takes place within several days, but a high temperature and moist atmosphere are necessary.

Stapelias should be grown in a sandy compost with humus and stone rubble.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Stapelia variegate: Carrion Flower

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