Stapelia gigantea
Aasblume Aug 2005.jpg
Carrion plant flower
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Stapelia
S. gigantea
Binomial name
Stapelia gigantea
  • Gonostemon giganteus (N.E.Br.) P.V.Heath
  • Ceropegia gigantea (N.E.Br.) Bruyns
  • Stapelia nobilis N.E.Br.
  • Stapelia marlothii N.E.Br.
  • Stapelia youngii N.E.Br.
  • Stapelia cylista C.A.Lückh.

Stapelia gigantea is a species of flowering plant in the genus Stapelia of the family Apocynaceae.[1] Common names include Zulu giant,[2]carrion plant and toad plant (although the nickname "carrion plant" can also refer to Stapelia grandiflora). The plant is native to the desert regions of South Africa to Tanzania.[3]


Growing up to 20 cm (8 in) tall, it is a clump-forming succulent with erect green stems 3 cm (1.2 in) thick. The blooms are large star-shaped five-petalled flowers up to 25 cm (9.8 in) in diameter. The flowers are red and yellow, wrinkled, with a silky texture and fringed with hairs, that can be as long as 8 mm (0.3 in). They bloom in autumn, triggered by the shorter daylight hours.[3]

The flowers have the smell of rotting flesh,[4] in order to attract the flies which pollinate them. Scent compounds of carrion flowers responsible for their odour include diamines (putrescine and cadaverine), sulfur compounds and various phenolic molecules.[5] Because of the foul odor of its flower, S. gigantea can act as an appetite suppressant in humans.[6]

There have been several proposed reasons for the size of the flowers of S. gigantea. First, it is possible that they are large to attract the flies that pollinate them.[7] The large size and color of the flowers combined with the carrion smell may cause the flies to behave as if it is a dead carcass and be more likely to visit it.[7][8]


Since it does not tolerate temperatures below 10 °C (50 °F) for extended periods, this plant must be grown under glass in temperate zones. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[9][10]


S. gigantea can become an invasive plant when introduced in arid and semi-arid environments, although it has been found to facilitate the recruitment of nurse-dependent native taxa, those that require a suitable microhabitat created by another plant for successful germination, growth, and/or survival from impacts such as herbivory.[11]



  1. ^ a b c "Stapelia gigantea". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  2. ^ "Stapelia gigantea". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Stapelia gigantea". Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  4. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  5. ^ Benbow, M. Eric; Tomberlin, Jeffery K.; Tarone, Aaron M. (August 2015). Carrion Ecology, Evolution, and Their Applications. CRC Press. p. 373. ISBN 9780429102240.
  6. ^ Corley, David Gregory; Miller, James (Mar 7, 2006), Plant derived or derivable material with appetite suppressing activity, retrieved 2016-09-28
  7. ^ a b Johnson, and Jurgens. "Convergent evolution of carrion and faecal scent mimicry in fly-pollinated angiosperm flowers and a stinkhorn fungus". South African Journal of Botany. 76.
  8. ^ Davis Endress, and Baum. (2008). "The evolution of floral gigantism". Current Opinion in Plant Biology. 11 (1): 49–57. doi:10.1016/j.pbi.2007.11.003. PMID 18207449.
  9. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Stapelia gigantea". Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  10. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 99. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  11. ^ Herrera, Ileana; Ferrer-Paris, José R.; Hernández-Rosas, José I.; Nassar, Jafet M. (2016). "Impact of two invasive succulents on native-seedling recruitment in Neotropical arid environments". Journal of Arid Environments. 132: 15–25. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2016.04.007. Retrieved 6 May 2016.