Friday, July 16, 2004

Several years ago, I found a most amazing plant on a hillside in Hawaii. Its large, starfish-shaped blossom caught my eye, and I just had to pull over for a closer look. I could tell from its fleshy leaves that it was some sort of succulent, so I took a chance and nabbed a quick cutting before hopping back in my car. Over the following months, my cutting successfully set up roots and produced a modest plant.

When it was time to move back to the mainland, I couldn't bear to leave my new plant behind entirely, so I gave a cutting to my mom on her last trip out to visit us on Oahu. She took it home and rooted it and established a second, equally successful plant. This plant took up permanent residence on her back porch along with a dozen or so orchids that I couldn't abandon in Hawaii but somehow also never managed to transport to Texas.

One day, Mom went out on her porch and smelled something really, really foul. She looked around outside for a dead animal before finally realizing that the stench was coming from the first blossom of this new plant. Apparently, this particular type of plant relies on flies for pollination, and it attracts these flies by mimicking rotting flesh. (Pretty clever for a plant, don't you think? Kind of reminds me of Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors.) We dubbed the plant "Mr. Stinky," and he continues to live in Florida with my parents.

"Mr. Stinky" is actually a type of stapelia. That's the Latin name and also the name we use in English. I encountered a German stapelia today in the cactus house at the Luisenpark. Perhaps he's "Herr Stinky" to his friends, but his official name in German is--I'm honestly not making this up--Aasblume. Yep, that's Blume as in "flower" and Aas as in . . . well, figure it out for yourself.

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