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Origin and Habitat: South Africa, Eastern Cape
Orbea variegata (L.) Haw.
Syn. Pl. Succ. 40 40 1812.
- Orbea variegata (L.) Haw.
- Orbea anguinea (Jacq.) Haw.
- Orbea atrata (Tod.)
- Stapelia atrata Tod.
- Orbea atropurpurea (Salm-Dyck)
- Orbea bisulca Haw.
- Orbea bufonia (Jacq.) Haw.
- Orbea ciliolata (Tod.)
- Stapelia ciliolata Tod.
- Orbea ciliolulata (Tod. ex Rüst)
- Stapelia ciliolulata Tod. ex Rüst
- Orbea clypeata (Jacq.) Haw.
- Orbea conspurcata (Willd.) Schult.
- Orbea curtisii Haw.
- Orbea hispida (Horn ex Rüst)
- Stapelia hispida Horn ex Rüst
- Orbea horizontalis (N.E.Br.)
- Stapelia horizontalis N.E.Br.
- Orbea inodora Haw.
- Orbea lepida (Jacq.) Haw.
- Orbea marginata (Willd.) Schult.
- Orbea marmorata (Jacq.) Schult. in Roem. & Schult.
- Orbea mixta (Masson) Haw.
- Orbea natalensis (Rüst)
- Stapelia natalensis Rüst
- Orbea normalis (Jacq.) Schult. in Roem. & Schult.
- Orbea obliqua (Willd.)
- Orbea ophiuncula (Haw.)
- Orbea orbicularis (Andrews) Haw.
- Orbea picta (Donn) Haw.
- Orbea planiflora (Jacq.) Don
- Orbea putida (A.Berger)
- Stapelia putida A.Berger
- Orbea quinquenervia Haw.
- Orbea retusa Haw.
- Orbea rugosa (Jacq.) Don
- Orbea scutellata (Tod.)
- Stapelia scutellata Tod.
- Orbea scylla (hort.)
- Stapelia scylla hort.
- Orbea trisulca (Donn)
- Stapelia trisulca Donn
- Orbea variegata var. brevicornis (N.E.Br.)
- Orbea variegata var. pallida (N.E.Br.)
- Stapelia variegata var. pallida N.E.Br.
- Orbea variegata var. prometheus (Dammann ex Rüst)
- Orbea woodfordiana Haw.
ENGLISH: Starfish Plant, Starfish Cactus, Toad Plant, Toad Cactus, Starfish Flower, Carrion Plant
CHINESE (中文): 牛角, 国章, 犀牛角
RUSSIAN (Русский): Стапелия варьирующая
Description: Orbea variegata is a soft stemmed succulent erect or prostrate, branched above ground. In age forms big clumps. The carrion-like smell of the flowers attracts flies and other insects for pollination.
Stems: Sprawling and decumbent over to 25 cm long, toothed, grey green mottled purple in full sun.
Flowers:* The typical flower is 5-7 cm across with 5 blunt lobes, starfish-like, attractively patterned or dusted with chocolate/purple, brown/bronze blotches on a greenish-yellow background, mostly in 6-7 rows or irregularly scattered, Corolla rugose, with a yellow central disc (annulus) speckled with dark spots.
Blooming season: Flowers coming in late summer or fall, have a light carrion smell. It is quite free flowering if in direct sunlight.
Fruits: The plant can readily set seed, after the fecundation the carpels develop long cylindrical fruits up to 12 cm long, these need to be contained when they ripen, because as soon as the fruit opens it liberate a cloud of flying seed provided whit a white feathery cotton fluff. The seeds can float from the pods and drift around the greenhouse on the slightest breeze.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Orbea variegata group
- Orbea lepida (Jacq.) Haw.: flower 5-7 cm Ø, patterned with chocolate or purple blotches on a greenish-yellow background. Corolla rugose, annulus yellow speckled with dark spots. Distribution: Eastern Cape
- Orbea variegata (L.) Haw.: flowers very much smaller, corolla sulphur-yellow with purple-brown dots with a paler circular bulge (or annulus) around the corona scattered with smaller purple spots.
Notes: Orbea variegata is almost certainly the most common Asclepiad in cultivation, even if it is still often seen under its earlier name of Stapelia variegata. (name given by Linnaeus) nowadays it is possible to find plants with both names in collections. And for the reason of the variability of the species, many could believe they have two different genera represented.
It is the first Stapelia that has reached Europe, it was introduced into cultivation in 1639, It arrived through a collection by the missionary Justus Heurnius. It is extremely variable, everything about this species is variable – size, shape, colour, corona, stems, habit; it is almost impossible to find two plants that are exactly identical one to each other. Earlier there were close to 50 varieties listed but all have now been taken back into the single species
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Focke Albers und Ulli Meve (Hrsg.): “Sukkulenten-Lexikon" Volume 3 Asclepiadaceae” Ulmer, Stuttgart 2002
2) White & Sloane. “The Stapelieae” edn 2. Abbey San Encino Press, 1937
3) Golding, J.S. "Southern African Plant Red Data Lists." Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 14. SABONET. Pretoria. Page 162. (ed.) 2002
4) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey “The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass” Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug/2011
5) Carl August Lückhoff “The stapelieae of Southern Africa” A. A. Balkema, 1952
6) Doreen Court “Succulent Flora of Southern Africa” A.A. Balkema, 2000
7) Hermann Jacobsen “A handbook of succulent plants: descriptions, synonyms, and cultural details for succulents other than Cactaceae" Blandford Press, 1960
8) Bruyns, P.V. "Stapeliads of Southern Africa and Madagascar" Volume I Umdaus Press, Hatfield, South Africa Pages 257 - 259 2005
9) Raimondo, D. 2008. Orbea variegata (L.) Haw. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2014.1. Accessed on 2015/02/12
Orbea variegata Photo by: Cactus Art
Orbea variegata Photo by: Raffa C. Garcia
Orbea variegata Photo by: Frikkie Hall
Orbea variegata Photo by: Frikkie Hall
Orbea variegata Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
A very rare double flowering form (Photo by Brian ) Photo by: Cactus Art
Orbea variegata Photo by: Julio C. García
Unripe pod (Photo by Jan Gielkens ) Photo by: Cactus Art
Cultivation and Propagation: Orbea variegata is very easy to grow, it is the ideal plant for beginners.
Soil: Use a gritty, well-drained soil pH 7,5 to 8,5 (mildly alkaline).
Exposure: It needs Light shade to full sun (but tolerate shadow).
Temperature: It is very resistant to heat, and will also tolerate quite cold temperatures and light frost too (in good condition), best in a ventilated environment.
Moisture: Water regularly during the growing season, keep dry in winter.
Pests and diseases: It is quite resistant to the “Balck spot” disease of Asclepiads.
Propagation: It is easily propagated by removing a cutting, sometimes with roots attached, in spring and summer, But seeds germinate readily if they are sown when fresh.
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