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March 20191

 

‘Our plant of the month for March is Stapelia gigantea also known commonly as ‘Giant Stapelia’,  ‘Giant Carrion Flower’ (English), ‘Aasblom’ (Afrikaans), ‘ililo’ or ‘uzililo’ (Zulu).  The plant is native to the arid and semi arid areas of south eastern Africa and can be seen in full flowering display at Mantuma camp in uMkhuze.

 

The stems of the plant are succulent, four angled, flattened on the angles and edged with small teeth.  In summer, it bears 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).  The flowers also have the smell of rotting flesh, which acts to attract the flies which pollinate them.  Said to have one of the largest flowers in the plant kingdom.

 

The plant is used in traditional medicine to treat hysteria and pain.  Also used in sorcery as a poison and is reportedly capable of causing death.

 

Stapelia gigantea is widely cultivated and can become invasive when introduced in arid and semi-arid environments’

 

Sources: Pooley, E.  A Field Guide to the Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region.  Natal Flora Publications Trust and Wikipedia.

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