The hundred or so species of Stapelia (carrion flower, starfish flower), similar to a cactus, are all quite short and branch up from their base. Until they flower they look a bit like cacti with grey-green, velvety stems six to eight inches long. Their star-shaped flowers (which sometimes smell like rotting meat) and the seeds, with the silky hairs attached, help identify stapelias as members of the milkweed family.

The Stapelia is a member of the milkweed family.
Stapelia. See more pictures of cacti.

Though they prefer bright light, they can sunburn in hot summer sun. They are shallow rooted and do not care to be crowded. The soil should have excellent drainage. Do not overwater -- drench and then let dry between waterings.

In the winter, water only enough to keep the plants from shriveling. They grow easily from seed; the shoots, cut off at the thinnest part, will root easily.

Cactus Profiles

Aeonium Melocactus
Agave Mountain Cereus
Alluaudia procera
Nananthus schoonesii
Calibanus hookerii
Rat Tail Cactus
Crassula Rebutia
Echeveria Sedum
Elephant Bush
Eulychnia saint-pieana
Spider Cactus
Foxtail Asparagus Fern
Torch Cactus
Haageocereus chrysacranthus
Trichodiadema olearea
Holiday Cactus

Learn how to care for cactus plants: