Stapelia grandiflora
Stapelia grandiflora

Stapelia grandiflora


Starfish cacti (Stapelia grandiflora) are also more morbidly called the carrion flower. These stinky, but spectacular, plants share similar traits to those from the carnivorous family in that they possess insect attracting flora (but are not carnivorous), which range in size from a couple of inches (5 cm.) high to plants that bear 12-inch (30 cm.) wide flowers. This plant species is native to South Africa, so growing starfish flowers usually requires warm, humid temperatures.


These plants aren’t exactly cactus, but are members of the succulent group of plants. They are soft stemmed plants without spines spreading out from a central point. They are thickly skinned and resemble carrion flesh. Starfish flower cactus may produce amazing five-petaled flowers that exude a rather unpleasant odor. The scent attracts flies and other insects, which pollinate the blooms. Flowers are red to brown and may be mottled with a couple of colors. Stapelia is the family name of the starfish flower cactus. The “gigantea” is the most commonly collected, as a showy specimen with foot wide flowers.

The flowers ripen to a rather horrifying odor after a couple of days. This reek is attractive to insects that seek out dead organic material. If you have a fruit fly infestation or other pest, try moving your stinky plant darling into the area. The insects are drawn to the carrion stench and sit mesmerized on the flower unable to move.

More common uses of starfish cactus are as an ornamental specimen that is quite a conversation piece. The wide succulent branches have little ornamental use themselves, but once the flowers arrive in summer, the plant has a high wow factor. Of course, this is when you must cope with the smell, but you can move it outside if the odor is too offensive. Just remember to bring it back inside if you live in any zone outside of USDA plant hardiness zone 9 to 11.

More common uses of starfish cactus are as an ornamental specimen that is quite a conversation piece. The wide succulent branches have little ornamental use themselves, but once the flowers arrive in summer, the plant has a high wow factor. Of course, this is when you must cope with the smell, but you can move it outside if the odor is too offensive. Just remember to bring it back inside if you live in any zone outside of USDA plant hardiness zone 9 to 11.