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Stapelia hirsuta,[1] common name starfish flower or carrion plant, is a species of flowering plant belonging to the family Apocynaceae.[2][3]

Stapelia hirsuta
Stapelia hirsuta with flower
Scientific classification
S. hirsuta
Binomial name
Stapelia hirsuta


Name and SynonymsEdit

The genus epithet "Stapelia" was named in honour of Johannes van Stapel, who described the first plant discovered, while the species name derives from the Latin “hirsutus”, meaning "hairy”.[4]



S.hirsuta stem from Barrydale, showing the characteristic concave grooves between the stems four angles.
Vegetative features

Stapelia hirsuta stems are subquadrangular and about 20 centimetres (7.9 in) high. Concave groves run vertically along the stems, between their four angles. This feature distinguishes S. hirsuta from many other Stapelia species with which it naturally co-occurs (e.g. Stapelia rufa, Stapelia engleriana), and which typically have stems which are also subquadrangular, but which are more rounded in cross-section.[5][6]

S.hirsuta flower in habitat at Buffelspoort, showing characteristic hairy, dark-red surface.
S.hirsuta flower in habitat in the Overberg region.
Floral features

Stapelia hirsuta flowers are flat, very hairy, dark-red and resemble rotting meat. Corolla can reach a width of about 5–15 centimetres (2.0–5.9 in). The carrion smell serve to attract various pollinators, especially flies. The flowering period extends from late summer through late autumn.


Stapelia hirsuta "crestata" (crested form) in cultivation.

This species is extremely variable with various subspecies and many hybrids.[4]

  • Stapelia hirsuta baylissii
  • Stapelia hirsuta gariepensis
  • Stapelia hirsuta tsomoensis
  • Stapelia hirsuta vetula


Distribution and habitatEdit

This species is endemic to South Africa and southern Namibia.[4]

Its wide distribution extends along the southern edge of the arid Karoo region, throughout the "Little Karoo" in the southern Cape, as far west as the Robertson Karoo and the Swartland just outside Cape Town. It can be found in the mainly winter rainfall areas, in the far west of South Africa, northwards through the Namaqualand region, as far north as southern Namibia. It is absent from the interior of South Africa.[5]


  1. ^ L., 1753 In: Sp. Pl. 217
  2. ^ a b Roskov Y.; Kunze T.; Orrell T.; Abucay L.; Paglinawan L.; Culham A.; Bailly N.; Kirk P.; Bourgoin T.; Baillargeon G.; Decock W.; De Wever A. (2014). Didžiulis V. (ed.). "Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2014 Annual Checklist". Species 2000: Reading, UK. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  3. ^ World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World
  4. ^ a b c Cactus Art
  5. ^ a b Plants Africa
  6. ^ PV.Bruyns: Stapeliads of southern Africa and Madagascar. Umdaus. 2005. Vol.II.