The Asclepiadaceae family: African succulents with beautiful but… smelly flowers

Asclepiadaceae: Stapelia hirsuta

Although more than twenty years have passed, I still remember my first encounter with an Asclepiadaceae. A few years ago, I approached the world of succulents, and I went to visit a nursery just outside my city. I had been browsing among the succulents for quite a while when the owner of the nursery, an elderly but very chirpy lady, noticed me and my interests in plants, approached me and said: “Do you want to see a succulent plant with beautiful flowers?” I said yes, of course, I wanted to see it, so she took me down a narrow corridor cluttered with plants and pointed to a large succulent in a hanging pot. It had thick fleshy, straight green stems with reddish edges, and from one of these stems hung a big star-shaped flower with elongated, thin tips and shaded yellow petals crossed by tiny dark streaks. “Come closer, sniff how good it smells”, the lady said to me, passing from a restrained smile to an open, fat laugh, as soon as I obeyed and immediately withdrew, disgusted by the smell of rotting flesh that from that flower had entered right into my nose.

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