Succulent Plant Site | Asclepiads


The Asclepiad Files is dedicated to bringing information about the former Asclepiadaceae family to you.  The information includes cultivation tips, propagation methods, images and species information on all the genera. 

Of the 2000 species, that is divided into 300 genera, this site is going to cover the stapeliads (Hoodia, Huernia, Orbea, Stapelia, etc), Ceropegia and Hoya.  Recently the Asclepiadaceae family has been subsumed into the Apocynaceae family (Adenium, Pachypodium

The Stapelieae (or Stapeliads) belong to the large family Asclepiadaceae (also known as the milkweed family).  The family has many interesting genera with diverse types of plants and extraordinary flowers.  For instance, the tuberous Brachystelmas, the edible Fockea edulis (hence the name), the beautiful climbing Hoya plants and the low growing, ground hugging Stapelia genus.  There are over 2500 species that are divided into 300 genera. 

Some of the plants are known as carrion plants, the Stapeliads, they have evolved some bizarre methods of pollination, perhaps the most strange and brilliant in the whole floral kingdom.  The flowers imitate rotting carrion both in appearance and smell, some have vibratile hairs which imitate other insect activity (they move in the slightest breeze). All these adaptations attract the pollinators, which are flies, the unsuspecting flies are led to believe that the flowers are pieces of rotting carrion, sometimes so much so that the females lay their eggs in the flowers. 

The flowers petals are always joined and the free part of the petal is known as the "corona lobe".  When the flies stop to investigate and drink some nectar an appendage is trapped in one of the five openings in the staminal column.  Upon jerking itself free pollinia is deposited onto the flies body where it will hopefully pollinate other flowers.

Many people are lead to believe that these are carnivorous plants but that is a misconception because the flies are in no way harmed by the flowers.  The larvae, of course, are the only ones to come off second best.

Upon successful pollination two seed pods develop.  Each pod is cylindrical in shape and tapering to a tip, the pods form a "V" shape commonly called "bokhorntjies" (goat horns) in South Africa.  The ripening of the seed pod is both spectacular and frustrating to collectors of the seed.  Once the pods are fully ripe they burst open and their seeds float away on tiny silken parachutes.  These parachutes are made up of fine hairs that catch the breeze easily.