Orbea variegata
Stapelia variegata 1787.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Orbea
O. variegata
Binomial name
Orbea variegata
(L.) Haw.
  • Stapelia variegata L.
  • Stisseria variegata (L.) Kuntze

Orbea variegata is a species of flowering plant in the family Apocynaceae, known as the star flower. It is native to the coastal belt of the Western Cape, South Africa, growing actively during the winter rainfall season.[2] It is an invasive species in southern Australia.[3]


Growing to 10 cm (3.9 in) tall by 50 cm (20 in) broad, it is a leafless succulent perennial with cactus-like toothed stems, and highly variable, star-shaped, off-white or yellow flowers strongly speckled with maroon, up to 8 cm (3.1 in) in diameter. The flowers may show regular (banded) markings, or irregular ones. They have five pointed or blunt lobes surrounding a central, pentagonal annulus (corona).[4] The flowers may have a faint carrion smell to attract potential insect pollinators.[5]


This plant is popular in cultivation, and is often sold under its former name Stapelia variegata. It has many common names, including starfish plant, starfish cactus, carrion cactus, carrion flower, toad cactus, toad plant.[5] It is not closely related to the true cactus family. When grown as an ornamental plant in temperate zones it requires protection, as it does not tolerate freezing temperatures. It is best grown under glass, in similar conditions to cacti.

In the UK it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.[6][7]



  1. ^ "Orbea variegata (L.) Haw". The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  2. ^ Bester, Stoffel Petrus (2006). "Orbea Haw". PlantZAfrica. SANBI. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  3. ^ https://pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/240025/carrion_flower_fsheet.pdf
  4. ^ "Annulus (botany)". Cactus-art.biz. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Orbea variegata". Encyclopedia of Succulents. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  6. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Orbea variegata". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  7. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 70. Retrieved 14 April 2018.