American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. Any of various plants of the genus Stapelia, including the starfish flower.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A genus of gamopetalous plants, of the order Asclepiadaceæ, type of tribe Stapelieæ. It is characterized by flowers with a wheel-shaped or reflexed corolla without appendages between the five valvate lobes, and with the tube short and broadly bell-shaped or almost wanting, and by a double corona, the outer of five horizontally spreading lobes alternate with the anthers, the inner of five scales produced into erect or arching horns. There are over 70 species, natives of South Africa. Their short fleshy leafless stems are produced into four prominent angles, which are coarsely toothed, sometimes bearing transient rudiments of leaves at the apex of the new growths. Numerous dark tubercles give the stems a grotesque appearance. Some are cultivated under glass for their beautiful and varied flowers, which are commonly very large, some reaching 12 inches (S. gigantea sometimes 14 inches) in diameter, of singular structure and often exquisitely marbled or dotted. In other species they are diugy or unattractive, usually coarse, thick, fleshy, and short-lived, and in most species exhale transiently a fetid odor as of carrion, attracting flies, which deposit their eggs upon them in large quantities. Their colors are largely the livid-purple and lurid-reddish, yellow, and brownish hues which are associated with disagreeable odors also in Rafflesia, Aristolochia, Amorphophallus, and others of the largest flowers. They are sometimes called carrion-flowers; S. bufonia is known, from its blotches, as toad-flower; and S. Asterias, from its spreading narrow-parted corolla, as starfish-flower.
- n. botany Any of the genus Stapelia of low-growing succulent plants, predominantly from South Africa, and often giving off an odour of rotten flesh.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Bot.) An extensive and curious genus of African plants of the natural order Asclepiadaceæ (Milkweed family). They are succulent plants without leaves, frequently covered with dark tubercles giving them a very grotesque appearance. The odor of the blossoms is like that of carrion.
- n. any of various plants of the genus Stapelia having succulent leafless toothed stems resembling cacti and large foul-smelling (often star-shaped) flowers
- From Stapelia ("genus name"). (Wiktionary)
- New Latin Stapelia, genus name, after Jan Bode van Stapel (died 1636), Dutch botanist. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“So the putrid smell of the stapelia, or carrion-flower, allures the large flesh-fly to deposit its young worms on its beautiful petals, which perish there for want of nourishment.”
“Last week, he waited with the breathless anticipation of an expectant father as his South African stapelia started to flower.”
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