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Image of Heurnia

Maureen Gilmer



Botanical Name


Plant Common Name


Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

This genus of carrion flowers contains about 60 to 70 species of tender succulent plants. They are primarily native to the deserts of Africa, more specifically to South Africa, Ethiopia and the Arabian peninsula. They tend to prefer very fast draining low fertility soils in somewhat protected locations of rocky hillsides which rarely retain much moisture but boulders offer protection from direct afternoon exposure.

All carrion flowers share the look and smell of a kill to draw flies, their primary pollinator. Smaller forms such as this may not emit much odor unless sampled up close. Most of the flowers in this genus are small, about the size of a bottle cap with very unusual visual form and colors. Some will feature an annulus, which resemble natural body openings. They all resemble a five point star with deep funnel like interiors where flies are fooled into laying their eggs. These hatch out into tiny microscopic larvae that quickly die for lack of food.

Carrion flowers feature a clump of angled blue green stems, although there are some exceptions which re more rounded, bearing hairy tipped tubercles. These plants creep into large patches where conditions are ideal, their cumulative scent better able to draw pollinators. These plants tend to break into segments when they are old and heavy, with pieces breaking off to root where they fall.

Just a few species are grown and available from specialty succulent dealers. The most distinctive annulus is Heurnia zebrine, with its central ring the color of drying blood surrounded by burgundy striped pointed lobes. Appreciated for its hairy round stems and rich blood red flowers is Heurnia pillansii, which develops a very hard clump of short green stems the length of a human toe.

These are truly unique plants that do well in very shallow, wide container such as a bonsai pot or cactus pan. Carrion flowers can be very difficult to grow even in dry climates similar to that of their homeland. They are quite prone to rotting off at the soil line if not perfectly drained. Even under the best conditions they may inexplicably die out or rot away. Unlike other succulent cuttings that are planted in sand to encourage rooting, these plants prefer to lie on top of the ground, right where they fall, and root without planting. Planting cuttings makes them far more prone to rot. Adult plants may suffer from mealy bugs in the roots as well. Grow these succulents in bright shade.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    13 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    12, 13, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    2"-4" / 5.1cm - 10.2cm

  • Width

    6"-18" / 15.2cm - 45.7cm

  • Bloom Time

    Summer, Fall

  • Native To

    Northern Africa, South Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances


  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Red, Burgundy

  • Flower Color Modifier


  • Fruit Color


  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Blue Green

  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Houseplant, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Self-Sowing