Orbea dummeri (Stapelia dummeri)

Scientific Name

Orbea dummeri (N. E. Br.) Bruyns


Stapelia dummeri, Caralluma dummeri, Pachycymbium dummeri, Angolluma dummeri

Scientific Classification

Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Tribe: Ceropegieae
Subtribe: Stapeliinae
Genus: Orbea


Orbea dummeri, formerly known as Stapelia dummeri, is an unusual succulent with roundish, erect, spreading, or decumbent stems. It grows up to 4 inches (10 cm) tall, spreading to form mats up to 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Stems are pale grey-green to almost white with reddish-purple dots, splotches and lines, and long, pointed tubercles. The hairy flowers are olive-green, borne on short stalks, and appear in summer.


USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 30 °F (−1.1 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Several species are fairly easy to grow. Others, often those with slightly hairy stems and the more unusual flowers, are more challenging and require careful watering (with some fertilizer) during the growing season and complete withdrawal of water during the winter months. A minimum winter temperature of 10°C (50°F) is acceptable, providing that plants are kept dry. A heated growing bench or incubator may help delicate plants to get through the colder months. However, many species live under shrubs in habitat and prefer light shade rather than full sun.

A gritty compost is essential, and clay pots are advisable for the more delicate species. Some growers prefer a mineral-only compost to minimize the chance of a fungal attack on the roots. A layer of grit on the compost's surface prevents moisture from accumulating around the base of the stems.

Keeping Stapelias and their roots free of pests such as mealybugs is the real key to success as fungal attack often occurs as a result of damage to stems by insects. See more at How to Grow and Care for Stapelia.


Native to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi.


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Orbea dummeri (Stapelia dummeri) - garden

Accepted Scientific Name: Orbea dummeri (N.E.Br.) Bruyns
Aloe 37(4): 74 (2000)

Origin and Habitat: Orbea dummeri is native to East Africa (S Kenya, N Tanzania, S Uganda and E. Zaire).
Habitat and ecology: This species grows in arid areas in Acacia-Commiphora bushland and Combretum woodland, where it is occasional on hilltops amongst the outcrop of rocks.

  • Orbea dummeri (N.E.Br.) Bruyns
    • Angolluma dummeri (N.E.Br.) Plowes
    • Caralluma dummeri (N.E.Br.) A.C.White & B.Sloane
    • Pachycymbium dummeri (N.E.Br.) M.G.Gilbert
    • Stapelia dummeri N.E.Br.

Description: Orbea dummeri (a.k.a Pachycymbium dummeri or Caralluma dummeri) is a most unusual perennial soft-wooded succulent of very free flowering habit. The flowers borne on short stalks are starry, greeny-yellow or olive-green in colour and possess a hairy corolla surface. It forms small lax mats to 10 cm tall.
Stems: Erect, spreading or decumbent, 4-angled to rounded 6-9 cm long pale grey-green with purple spots and stripes with conical-subulate slender teeth, 8-15 mm long and 3-5 mm wide horizontally spreading at the base with red stripes.
Flowers: 1 to 6, more or less terminal. Peduncle to 1.5 mm long Bracts c. 2 mm long lanceolate-triangular, pointed. Pedicels 8-12 mm long, c.1.5 mm thick. Sepals 4-5 mm long, 2 mm wide. Corolla 2.5-4 cm across, campanulate, , deeply incised, inside yellow-green, olive-green or dark green lobes spreading. hairy above. Tube 4-5 mm long, 8-9 mm across, cup-shaped, embracing the corona. Corolla-lobes 13-15 mm long, c 4 mm wide, triangular, long attenuate, horizontally spreading or erect, convex, inside papillate, papillae cylindrical, c.0.5 mm mm long, apically with white 1-1.5 mm long bristly hairs. Corona white or yellowish 3.5-4.5 mm across. Outer corona tubular, lobes 1-1.5 mm long, cup-shaped rectangular when seen from above, apically with 2 lateral teeth, sometimes with additional small tooth-like appendages. Inner corona lobes 1.7-2 mm long, c. 1.3 mm thick, tips irregularly 2- to 3(-5)-toothed, central tooth elongate, apically overlapping. The gynostegium is cylindrical and rather wider towards the base in O. dummeri but conspicuously narrowed towards the base of the outer corona lobes in Orbea circes. Pollinia 0.5 x 0.3 mm, ovoid.
Blooming season: Summer.
Fruits: The fruit are paired spindle-shaped capsules (follicles), resembling the horns of an antelope, with the tightly packed seeds inside. At maturity they split open to release numerous small brown seeds crowned with long white hairs.

Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Focke Albers, Ulrich Meve “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Asclepiadaceae: Asclepiadaceae” Volume 4 Springer Science & Business Media, 2002
2) Umberto Quattrocchi “CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology” (5 Volume Set) CRC Press, 03 May 2012
3) Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. “Medicinal plants 2” PROTA, 2013
4) Andrew D. Q. Agnew, Shirley Agnew “Upland Kenya wild flowers: a flora of the ferns and herbaceous flowering plants of upland Kenya” East Africa Natural History Society, 1994
5) 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 August 2011
6) A. A. J. Jansen, H. T. Horelli, V. J. Quinn “Food and Nutrition in Kenya: A Historical Review” Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi, 1987

Stapelia dummeri (Orbea dummeri) Photo by: Luiza Ferreira
Stapelia dummeri (Orbea dummeri) Photo by: Giuseppe Distefano
Stapelia dummeri (Orbea dummeri) Photo by: Frikkie Hall
Stapelia dummeri (Orbea dummeri) Photo by: Giuseppe Distefano
Stapelia dummeri (Orbea dummeri) Photo by: Giuseppe Distefano
Stapelia dummeri (Orbea dummeri) Photo by: Frikkie Hall
Stapelia dummeri (Orbea dummeri) Photo by: Giuseppe Distefano

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Cultivation and Propagation: Orbea dummeri isn't difficult to grow and flower.
Spring: When winter ends and they begin to grow again, they will require much water and soaking the pots will no longer put the plants at risk for rot. In the spring they will grow well in partial shade and leaving them out in the rain may provide them with the water they need.
Summer: In the summer months they will tolerate heavy rain, but will be just as happy if the season is dry. It's best to sort out the stems while the plants are resting in the summer before they begin their autumnal growth cycle. They will tolerate very hot weather outdoors as long as they are kept in filtered light and this will encourage them to flower in the Autumn. They also enjoy some fertiliser. Moving the plants as they are developing buds may cause them to spontaneously abort the flowers all together.
Autumn: In the fall keep them outdoors until the night time temperatures drop below the 10°C.
Winter: Winter care presents no problems at 10° C with plenty of light. As soon as they are flowered be sure to take extra precautions to keep them dry, because damp cool conditions when the plants are resting is an invitation to fungal infections, but - according to temperatures –some occasional lit watering may be useful.
Potting medium: Since roots are quite shallow, use a cactus mix or add extra perlite or pumice to regular soil potting soil. A gritty, very free-draining compost is suitable, and clay pots help the plants to dry out between watering. Re-pot every 2 years.
Pest and diseases: Orbeas are generally fairly easy to grow, especially if kept pest-free. They are very susceptible to stem and root mealy bugs, and damage from these may well initiate fungal attack. Any time when there is a dead or dying stem in the pot it is important to remove it immediately and completely before other healthy stems can become ill too, isolate the healthy parts, dry them off, and re-root them in new compost.
Medicinal uses: The Turkana people in Kenya drink a decoction of the stems with milk or chew the stems to treat chest pains. Fresh plant sap is squeezed on wounds to heal them. In Uganda the dried and powdered whole plants are put in water and the filtrate is put in the ear to help evacuate ear wax and to treat headache. In Tanzania the latex is applied as ear drops to treat earache.
Food uses: The succulent shoots are chewed by women and children.
Propagation: Easiest with stem cuttings. Allow cuttings to dry a day before planting. Stems must be laid (Not buried) on gritty compost and will then root from the underside of the stems. It can also be increased from seeds sowing in spring in moist, sandy peat moss. Barely cover seeds. Seeds germinate quickly.
In any season it's best to lay the stems out for several days before replanting them and then pot them only in dry soil and withhold any water until they begin to shrivel or start growing again.

Blooming Stapeliads

I have a couple of Stapeliads that are blooming for the firsts time ever. First is Orbea commutata, second is Huernia hallii and third is Huernia bayeri.

Does O commutata indeed smell a little of Kalamata olives? that's what Miles says at his site.

Thanks for sharing the pics. I've just starting collecting Stapelias. Grew some when I was about 11 years old and now that I'm just getting to retirement I was given one by a neighbor a couple of months ago which rekindled the interest. Went crazy buying everything i could find. About 10 orders of plants or cutting from ebay which gave me variety but a high price and then found six small pots at Walmart for $1 each, then a three gallon pot crammed with one plant in Kona last week. I split that pot up into 15 smaller pots. So now I have dozens of pots. Now have to take care of them and wait for the blooms.
How many do you have and any tips to share.

Very nice, Nancy!
I've got several Stapeliads (Stapelia, Huernia, Orbea), but have never had any flower (though they all seem to be doing well. ).
Is this the 'normal' time for flowering?

I also have Huernia schneideriana (Pic 1), Huernia grandiflora (Pic 2), Orbea baldratii (Pic 3 now) & O. baldratii (Pic 4 in the fall like Nov. 2011 when it normally blooms) All the others seem to bloom mostly in the summer like June, July, Aug. Although H. schneideriana is setting buds now.
The main thing to me is do not overwater them. I grow all mine in pots so I can control the water. I keep them in light shade here in Arizona because our sun is so intense. I give them a shot of fertilizer now and then in spring/summer. They are such interesting plants.

I got that O. commutata from Miles. He has great plants! You could say the flowers smell like kalamata olives I suppose. I don't care for the olives nor the smell of the Orbea!

Nice! Nancy. My Huernia schneideriana is blooming now.

Hi Nancy, I figured you might have gotten some of those from Miles.

I could swear some of my stapeliads must smell like spoiled milk. Such a strong smell like that last week.

I know these smells aren't pleasant per se, but I love them for almost the same inverted aesthetic that makes me love fiercely armed or dead-stick plants: the appeal of the repellant or unappealing. I'm fascinated by the niche which these plants (and their pollinators) fill in the environment. Too bad my yard is such a pale impersonation of their habitat.

He's doing such interesting work branching out into stapeliads the last couple years. He has many unusual species from seed (and hybrids if that's your thing). Besides a few mail orders this summer, I bought a bunch of his succulents in person at InterCity Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale a couple weeks ago.

Ol' Stinky is at it again. Flower opened (most of the way) today. Not so faint odor like dog poo at this early stage, no flies on the scene yet. The shiny green ones will catch a whiff soon no doubt.

Stapelia gigantea is the most common plant of that type around here, by far. I'm used to it flowering around the start of fall (which coincides with my birthday). I was reading about this species on the web and came across this pearl of wisdom, which I learned the hard way two years ago.

> a plant should not be moved when its buds are being developed.

Or else. no stinky for you. Here's the whole article

This message was edited Aug 28, 2012 4:55 PM

My ol' stinky bloomed last week! They have got to be one of the most fascinating flowers.. hairy leather.
And the plant is tough as nails too. Throw a piece into the back forty and it shows back up in a while with roots.

mine is blooming today on the roof. guess this must be the time.. there's one open.. and a few more to follow..
mine isn't stinkey at all.. but as you can see in the photo. it does have a fly

GordonHawk: Is that plant hanging from the eaves of your house?

Nancy.. the plant will have it's second flower this week likely tomorrow I'd say.
No. it doesn't hang from the eves. there's a skylight .. you see it there with the triple wall polycarbonate glazing.. the pot sits on top of the skylight.. and hangs over dangling down

Well, it sure is a happy plant! The plant that I identified in my pictures as Huernia grandiflora may actually be Stapelia gigantea. It hasn't bloomed for me so I don't know if the flower is yellowish or maroon. Looks like it isn't going to bloom this year either since no buds yet.

Mine's starting to hang a bit, too. I moved its container to a railing so it can trail over both sides.

Mine bloomed about a month ago. It is getting ready to bloom again.

This message was edited Aug 30, 2012 7:43 PM

Boy, you attracted a lot of flies with that one!

These are all wonderful! My flavirostris flowered last week.

WOW Kiphofia a wonderful bloom. I can't think of a hairier flower I've ever seen. like a neanderthal. beautiful..
got a second flower here . and another for tomorrow or theday after . and lots more buds comming. bet there's two dozen buds on it now..maybe it likes to hang way down. gravity watering from the roots
OH you have to double click on the picture to get the flower .. given the cropping for display

With that picture I can really see how your Stapelia gigantea is growing. Wonderful!

I got a second bloom on my Heurnia hallii and was able to take a better photo.

this is my first year where it's bloomed so much. four blooooms so far and maybe a dozen buds forming .. is this wat these usually do.. like an older plant. ??
also the flower . inside there's a few clumps of a white fluff.. on the side of the flower. what is this.. is it pollen.. it must serve some purpose..

The white stuff are eggs from the flies. Mine is getting several buds, too.

fly eggs.. I saw the biggest pile of them when it opened.. they must have wiggled their way in when it was just cracking open. laid their eggs. and they were allready there when it opened. amazing.. thanks

Fly eggs, oh dear! You are going to have lots of flowers too Gary. Nice!

I looks like I might have several on the one plant. I have some getting ready to open and some that are just coming on.

This message was edited Oct 8, 2012 1:41 PM

This one was open when I got home from work. It seems to be a little smaller than the other plant. This one has his hands behind his back. The flies are already busy.

It's amazing how the flies find the flowers so quickly! The flowers on mine are small and I haven't seen any flies on them.

My Stapelia finally bloomed too, for the first time after having it for a couple of years. I checked it daily, then missed the day it first opened, but the next day there it was in all its glory. Stinky, but so beautiful! I was surprised at how large the flower is, about 4 1/2" from tip to tip, and all it's little hairs are amazing.

The flies saw it before I did and in this hot weather their eggs sure open fast and the larva were already crawling around its center.

From Baja's comment, and looking at DG files I'm assuming it's a Stapelia gigantea. Unfortunately it only developed one bud.

This message was edited Sep 6, 2012 1:38 PM

Watch the video: EASY u0026 BEAUTIFUL SUCCULENTS Huernia StapeliaStarfish. Stink Plants with FLOWERS

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