Family: Asclepiadaceae (Apocynaceae according to some classifications)
Cultivation: A very bright location is recommended; direct sun is also well tolerated. Always keep above 5°C and water every 3-4 days in spring and summer.
Curiosity: Literally, its name means “with Stapelia-like flowers”. However, unlike the other plants in the Stapeliinae tribe (such as Stapelia, Huernia, etc.) it is native to Madagascar instead of the African continent.
Stapelianthus is a genus in the tribe of Stapeliinae, including 11 species native to Madagascar, with a few endemisms.
They can be found in quite different habitats: from limestone or sandstone outcrops in shrublands, underneath the bushes in shaded positions, to fine soils of spiny forests.
The habit of Stapelianthus can be erect or creeping: most of the species form clusters similar to little bushes.
They have fleshy, cylindrical stems, branching mostly at the base, which usually do not exceed 10 centimeters in height. Small spines grow along them, usually short and robust, in some species more like white hairs. In S. pilosus, for example, hairs are long and dense so that to hide the entire stem from sight. This is probably to minimize water loss through transpiration (hairs tend to retain water steam). Some other species, instead, have the stem furrowed by tubercles reminding those of some cacti.
Leaves are usually reduced to scales, or even absent, so the photosynthesis is carried out by the stems.
Their roots are usually provided with a rhizome.
The colorful, odd flowers are the main reason why plants in the Stapeliinae tribe are so sought after. In Stapelianthus, flowers are different depending on the species. They usually are fleshy, bell-shaped, with a corolla divided into five lobes, more or less marked. In the central part of the corolla, a kind of prominent, ring-shaped structure called anuulus is present, more or less pronounced according to the species. In S. keraudreniae, the anuulus is so prominent that the whole flower look like a brooch.
The colors of these incredible flowers range from dark red to brown or white/yellow, but with very striking maculations in different patterns: For example, flowers of S. pilosus show a bright, fleshy yellow, spotted with purple dots.
The blossoming period occurs in autumn.
Stapelianthus flowers, like the ones of any Stapeliinae, are mainly pollinated by flies, and thus, when they open, they produce a strong smell of rotten meat or dung, depending on the species, to attract these insect. If the plants need to be relocated when it blooms due to its smelle, it’s best to move it before the buds form, or after the flower begins to open. Moving the plants as they are developing buds may cause it to spontaneously abort its flowers all together.
Fruits are usually horned follicles, often mottled or striped, which host small seeds (maximum 7 millimeters long).
VARIETY AND TYPES
The recognized varieties of Stapelianthus are 6-8 according to the classifications. Here below they are:
- S. arenariu
- S. insignis
- S. keraudreniae
- S. madagascarensis
- S. montagnacii
- S. pilosus
- S. baylissii
- S. choananthus
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TIPS FOR GROWING
Here are our cultivation tips:
- Put your Stapelianthus in a bright spot,
- They are warm-loving plants, the ideal temperature is thus around 20°C. In winter they can also be left outside as long as the temperature never drops below 5 ° C. As they need plenty of light also during the cold months, it is not recommended to move them in warmer but shady environments.
- In spring and summer you can water regularly 1-2 times a week or even more, trying to maintain the soil slightly moist (but avoiding water stagnation to prevent root rotting). Decrease the irrigation frequency in the fall/winter but never leave the soil completely dry, unless the stems may shrivel up.
- Use a sandy, very draining, medium-fertile soil. Some speciesfit better to rocky soils.
- Fertilize every 1 or 2 months with a specific product for succulent plants, to be diluted in the water during spring and summer.
- Repotting is usually done every two years. Be careful not to damage the delicate branches of the plant while handling it.
For reproduction, it is possible to use both sowing and cuttings or division of the heads. For cuttings, use twigs about 2 inches long and allow the wound to dry well before planting them in sandy soil.