Most succulent collectors have grown at least a few stapeliads, a tribe of the former milkweed family Asclepiadaceae (The family was recently combined into the dogbane family, Apocynaceae). All stapeliads are succulents, and they bear a wide range of flower sizes and shapes. Most species share the trait of being pollinated by flies and carrion beetles. Therefore the flowers look and smell like dead things. There will be a future article about these.
The featured species is one of the few exceptions; it isn’t a “carrion flower”. The flowers don’t look like rotting meat, and they have a powerful and delightful sweet fragrance. They’re still fly-pollinated, but they offer nectar (energy food) instead of the false promise of a place to lay eggs. However, the flowers appear to produce no nectar; they’re still apparently relying on deceit to get pollinated.
The flowers are born in late summer; healthy plants produce many one-inch star-shaped flowers with a plethora of frills, spikes, and warts. The color ranges from brown to bright yellow-green, often with purple centers. The penetrating fragrance is reminiscent of honey or some cookies or candy being baked in grandma’s kitchen.