15 November 2009

holiness - of a sort

In the 'greenhouse' are a few pots of various succulents and cactus that have languished unwatered on the top shelf in far too much shade and they all look rather unhappy. They are waiting patiently for the new building and prime positions on the brightest windowsills but this will be awhile yet. I am sure they will survive stunted as they are until moved to better growing conditions but in the meantime one of the stockplants, mother to numerous plant sale cuttings, is is definitely making its presence felt in my kitchen.

Stapelia grandiflora is one of the South African carrion flowers and the family is adapted to grow in arid scrubland with seasonal rainfall. I collected the seed for this twenty years ago in Zimbabwe at the top of Victoria Falls, they have extremely rapid germination and were up in 24 hours, and have kept a piece of this same plant growing since then. It grows as low spreading clumps of angular stems and in very well drained compost is easy to grow. It is happy dry from October until late April but when in active growth does like regular watering. Like all succulents it must never sit in water or the roots will rapidly rot. After growing all summer the new stems will slowly develop enormous swollen flower buds. They swell to bursting point and pop open into great hairy starfish flowers over six inches across. These have an aroma of decaying meat, not overpowering but very pervasive, and an antelope-corpse-bumholey-ness that flies cannot resist. The mimicry is so convincing that flies will lay their eggs on the petals. These are doomed to shrivel unhatched as each flower only lasts a couple of days or so before withering.

Strange and stinky but I do rather like them.

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