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Stapelia hirsuta (African Starfish Flowers)

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Scientific Name

Stapelia hirsuta L.

Common Names

African Starfish flowers, Carrion Plant, Starfish Flower, Hairy Stapelia

Synonyms

Stapelia hirsuta var. hirsuta, Gonostemon hirsutus, Stisseria hirsuta

Scientific Classification

Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Tribe: Stapeliae
Genus: Stapelia

Description

Stapelia hirsuta is a succulent plant with subquadrangular stems and flat, very hairy, dark-red flowers. The stems grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) tall. Flowers are up to 6 inches (15 cm) across and appear from late summer through late fall. This species is extremely variable with various subspecies and many hybrids.

Stapelia hirsuta (African Starfish Flowers)

Photo by Raffa C. Garcia

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 10b to 11b: from 35 °F (+1.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Several species are fairly easy to grow. Others, often those with slightly hairy stems and the more unusual flowers, are more challenging and require careful watering (with some fertilizer) during the growing season and complete withdrawal of water during the winter months. A minimum winter temperature of 10°C (50°F) is acceptable, providing that plants are kept dry. A heated growing bench or incubator may help delicate plants to get through the colder months. However, many species live under shrubs in habitat and prefer light shade rather than full sun.

A gritty succulent soil mix is essential, and clay pots are advisable for the more delicate species. Some growers prefer mineral-only soil to minimize the chance of a fungal attack on the roots. A layer of grit on the soil's surface prevents moisture from accumulating around the base of the stems.

Keeping Stapelias and their roots free of pests such as mealybugs is the real key to success as fungal attack often occurs due to damage to stems by insects.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Stapelia.

Origin

Stapelia hirsuta is endemic to South Africa (Cape Province) and southern Namibia. It can be found mainly in winter rainfall areas.

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