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Orbea lutea (N.E.Br.) Bruyns subsp. lutea

Yellow carrion flower

ParentsUnknownGenus is not in the current taxonomy
SpeciesluteaYellow, from a source of yellow dye called lutum
subsp.luteaYellow, from a source of yellow dye called lutum

About plant names...

The yellow carrion flower is so named because it produces a pungent odor reminiscent of rotting fish when in bloom. The odor attracts flies which lay eggs and pollinate the flowers. Carrion flowers are native to southern Africa, and are not found in North America.

Identification: These flowers are easily distinguished by their large clusters of 6-24 brightly colored, five-petaled, starfish-shaped flowers. Flowers are directly attached to the plant (no stem), usually clustered near the base. Flowers may be mustard yellow ranging to orange, dark orange, or almost maroon. Plants remain in flower from December to April. These plants are succulents, with waxy, thickened stems squarish in cross-section. 1-6" (3-15 cm) high. The stems have thornlike projections about ⅜" (1 cm) long.

A closely related subspecies, Orbea lutea subsp. vaga, is found in more westerly portions of southern Africa, while this more common species is found “along the lower Orange River and then northwards through most of Namibia to southern Angola. This subspecies is distinguished from vaga in having much thinner and longer corolla segments (3–5 times as long as broad compared to 1.5–2.5 times as long as broad in vaga.)”[1]

Online References:

The South African National Biodiversity Institute's web site, plantzafrica.com

in Flora of Zimbabwe


The United States Department of Agriculture's Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN)

1See this excellent article comparing both subspecies.

Orbea lutea ssp. lutea


Orbea lutea subsp. lutea description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Orbea lutea (yellow carrion flower)

7/29/2023 · Ntwetwe pans, Gweta, Botswana · By Benjamin Winslow

Orbea lutea (yellow carrion flower)

7/29/2023 · Ntwetwe pans, Gweta, Botswana · By Benjamin Winslow