A recent article in the Ithaca Journal focused on a rare corpse plant in bloom at the Kenneth Post Lab Greenhouse of Cornell University. This titan arum gives off the smell of rotting meat when blooming in order to attract insects for pollination. Visitors lined up to get a glimpse and sniff of the plant nicknamed Wee Stinky. This event stirred up memories of one of my own plants which also has a bloom which attracts flies with its rotting meat stench.
My plant is a Starfish Flower (Stapelia Gigantea) also referred to as a carrion flower. The first time it bloomed I searched the yard for a rotting carcass. When the scent finally drew me to the plant, I opted to remove the flower and subsequent buds before the air was filled with the unpleasant smell. The plant was a gift to me the Christmas before our first child Michele was born. It was a small succulent nestled among other plants which have not survived so successfully. I am proud to say this specimen has been in our family for thirty-four years. Unfortunately for our daughter, this stinky plant will always remind me of that time during my first pregnancy. Of course there are many more positive associations from those days. Even a glance at my Starfish evokes happy memories of the beginning of our family.
The first year our sun room was completed this longtime friend was placed in a sunny corner to spend the winter. Having been outside for the other three seasons, the Starfish was large and healthy. In an incident which actually brought tears to my eyes, my cats knocked the planter over, shattering both the ceramic pot and the many arms of the plant. That winter it was slow to return to its full glory, but eventually it strengthened and continued to grow.
Our early spring this year brought temperatures more typical of early summer. My rosemary and parsley plants were looking a little tired from the dry winter air. After checking the future temperatures and finding that lows were mostly in the high forties, I decided to put the herbs outside for some rest and recuperation. Knowing that the Starfish can handle the hot, dry conditions in the sun room, I decided to leave it where it has been since October. When I am sure no freezing temperatures will return, the Starfish will go out onto the front porch to join my other plants. There it will probably produce a beautiful flower with its accompanying and contrasting stench.