Stapelia gigantea is a species of flowering plant in the Stapelia genus and the family Apocynaceae. The plant is referred to as Zulu giant, carrion plant or toad plant (although the nickname "carrion plant" can also refer to Stapelia grandiflora). Stapelia gigantea sometimes also goes by the name of Stapelia nobilis or Stapelia marlothii. The plant is native to the desert regions of South Africa to Tanzania.
|Carrion plant flower|
Growing up to 20 cm (8 in) tall, it is a clump-forming succulent with erect green stems 3 cm (1.2 in) thick. 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 of this plant bloom in the Fall season, due to the shorter daylight hours.
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 it. The largeness and color of the flower combined with the carrion smell may serve to make the flies think that it is a dead carcass and be more likely to visit it. It has also been proposed that these large flowers could work as thermal regulators, much like the large ears of a Fennec fox.
Since it does not tolerate temperatures below 10 °C (50 °F) for extended periods, this plant must be grown as a houseplant in temperate zones. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
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.
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