Stinky Flowers

I was on my way home from Austin in November of 2011 with a back seat full of treasures and trinkets bought during the trip. The sun was shining, and it was a lovely day for traveling. But as I covered the miles home, I began to notice that an unpleasant smell was moving along with me. I decided I must have run over an unfortunate road kill and somehow collected a piece of it under the car. By the time I needed a bathroom break at Sweetwater, I decided the whole dead animal must be stuck under the car or on the tires.

I took care of business and came back to the car determined to locate the origin of the offending odor. Finding nothing on or under the car, in desperation I opened the back door to see if a sick animal had climbed in for a free ride, and Eureka! Mystery solved.

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One of the treasures I was taking home was a huernia or stapeliad, I wasn’t sure which since it wasn’t labeled, that had six nice buds ready to open. It was a nice sunny day, remember, and the buds responded to the sun, even in the floorboard of the back seat, and had opened as I drove. Deep maroon, the blooms were, with hairs and that tell-tale smell, which are two of the characteristics of stapeliads. Huernia and stapeliad are related-family Apocynaceae, subfamily Asclepiadaceae and come from areas in southern Africa. Both plants are similar, blooms are five-pointed with interesting patterns on them. And they both carry that lovely scent, but to smell the huernias in my collection I have to have my nose right up next to them. These flowers weren’t bashful at all about sharing their aroma with the world.

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When I got home and moved the plant into the greenhouse, I had a trail of flies following me like bats flying out of the cave in search of mosquitoes. My husband was aghast that I would even bother to put it in the greenhouse to keep. But of course I did.

The flowers were interesting and lasted several days before folding up and withering away. The plant is doing well. It has yet to bloom again. But if it does, I will know this time that no little animal died in the greenhouse. 

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