Please, Don’t Smell the Cactus


A couple of weeks ago, I was in a local nursery/greenhouse and spotted an interesting plant. Always looking for something different, I purchased it. Before I tell you more about it, here’s how it looked when I brought it home.

cactus1 10-7-2013 2-26-57 PM

Now, the owner of the greenhouse explained that this is a “carrion cactus”. And the reason it’s called that is because the blooms smell like…..road kill, decaying flesh…you get the idea. She also said that the blooms attract flies. And I said to the owner: “And I’m supposed to keep this plant IN my house?”.

There were two of these plants at the nursery. The one I didn’t purchase actually had an open flower at that time (which I declined to sniff). But this one had more buds. Yesterday, I noticed that mine now has a bloom.

carrion bloom 10-10-2013 2-19-43 PM

Just for size reference, I placed a “red Solo cup” beside the plant.

red solo cup 10-10-2013 2-20-17 PM

Let me just say that this plant is NOT, and has not been, in our home. I’ve been keeping it in the garage.  And I did some olfactory research prior to writing this post. I did, in fact, take a sniff of that bloom. A very quick sniff.

My first thought was that it smells like dead fish. But, then I remembered passing by road kill on a hot summer’s day….and, well, once again, you get the idea.

There’s a reason it’s called carrion cactus.

I’m adding a little PS update to this post after so many readers have questioned my decision in buying this plant.  The owner of the greenhouse assured me that the smell isn’t all that bad. And it isn’t – unless you specifically “stick your nose” within an inch or two of the bloom, you don’t even notice it.  And I haven’t seen any flies around the plant. Nevertheless, I’m still not planning to bring it in the house… Thanks for your comments!


21 responses to “Please, Don’t Smell the Cactus

  1. I remember seeing a HUGE one of those at the botanical gardens – it really is quite stinky but interesting at the same time! So you got this plant because you needed to decorate your garage??? I guess you can move it to the yard in the summer though. AWAY from the house! 😉 😉


  2. I once was given a Voodoo Lily and the persn who gave to me was kind enough to warn me NOT the keep it the house. I never thougth of it why, it grew beautifully on my deck in all colors purple and brown untill indeed it started blooming. I sniffed it and really…I passed out!
    Mother Nature is beautiful but always has some surprises up her sleeve;0) Fascinating post! Johanna

  3. Still trying to figure out why you bought this in the first place!!!!LOL!

  4. What a contrast that cactus against the water. You are adventuresome, Dianna. I would pass on picking it up but you didn’t. That starfishy thingy placed in front reminds me of this story by Loren Eisley. You can read it here.

  5. Oh my…such a beautiful and unusual bloom as are the “bulby” ones beside it.

  6. Eeeek! I never saw anything like it. Beautiful in its own way and a wonderful garage decoration if you park outside. 🙂

  7. And you bought this plant because………the bloom is beautiful.

  8. So now you know that different isn’t always a good thing. Now it’s going to have to live in your garage forever…attracting flies.

  9. It IS a beautiful starfish looking bloom! It would have to go some place I couldn’t smell the stink but appreciate the beauty of the bloom. Attracting flies is a problem. We have plenty of them here!

  10. i am intrigued as to why you’d want to purchase one. i’ve heard of them and seen photos before. i’ll pass on the aroma.

  11. It looks like something from another planet… before and after blooming! It also looks like something featured in a low-budget ’50s horror movie.. 😉 But it’s cool !

  12. Wow! There are some pretty incredible things in this world!

  13. Wow I agree with cat from hell! I’ve never seen anything like it! Pawesome! =^.^=

  14. i read the ps, this was an interesting choice!! the bloom is pretty but i am just not a big fan of any cactus, regardless of the odor. it will be a great conversation starter with guests!!

  15. I’ve heard of these but have never actually seen one or a photo of one. Interesting. But since we are currently battling a deluge of flies, spiders and stink bugs around our house all trying to get into the house, I think I would have passed on this cactus for sure. 😉

  16. What an interesting plant! The bloom is awesome–but I’m not sure if I could handle the smell.

  17. Shirley Matthews Dunn

    Very different plant that’s for sure,but very interesting. I like that the bloom is sharped like a star fish. Good job, Dianna!

  18. Judy & C.A.T.S.

    Hi this is the first time I have visited your blog

    I have heard of these plants but never smelled one. The bloom on that plant is huge! I guess it would be a great conversation piece.

    Your kitty Sundae is beautiful!!! She has beautiful markings.

  19. It’s so unique, I like it. Got any buzzards hovering? LOL

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