Stapeliads, morphology and pollination

Stapeliads, morphology

Stapeliads are succulents with beautiful flowers with a smell that does not match their beauty at all. Distributed mainly in Africa, a few species can also be found in Europe, and quite a few in Asia.

Their flowers are unique, not only due to the bizarre beauty, but also due to the unusual reproductive structures. Even the pollination mechanism has no parallel in the plant kingdom.

Stapeliads, morphology

Stapeliads, which are stem succulents, belong to the family Apocynaceae and subfamily Asclepiadoideae. Until recently, they were placed into the Asclepiadaceae family. The stem shapes are very similar in most genera, but when they bloom, the beauty of the flowers is striking as well as their unpleasant smell! “Stapeliads, Orchids of the Succulent World” is the title of the web pages of Jerry Barad from New Jersey, USA. The title says everything. The flowers have a beauty and colour that can only be compared with orchids. And they also share another characteristic. The pollen mass is fused in a wax pollen sack – pollinium, which is transferred by pollinators to the style.

All stapeliads have some common morphological characteristics. Succulent stems are the most visible, and which are alike in different genera. The floral structure of the flowers is five lobed in all asclepiads and they also have similar fruits and seeds.


Iztok Mulej
Matija Strlic.