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The Smelly Starfish Flower

I saw the starfish flower for the first time a few years ago in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. I didn’t know its name and everyone I showed the photo to, shook their heads. They didn’t know either. All I knew for sure was that the stems made me think it had to be from the cactus family. I also knew that I was intrigued by the shape and squiggly lines.

Open Carrion Plant

Carrion Plant

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a friend. As we sipped lemonade and chatted on her verandah, she stopped mid sentence, “Smell that?” she asked, furrowing her brow.

“No. What?”

“There, don’t you see it?”

I looked in the direction she’d pointed, the place she insisted the odor was coming from. But all I saw was lush, green foliage. Nothing seemed out of place or able to produce the foul smell she alluded to. I didn’t see or smell anything offensive and told her so. But it didn’t seem to reassure her.

“Don’t you see that yellow flower, the one that looks like a large star?”

By now I could hear tension creeping into her voice. I felt at any moment, she’d spring from her seat to seek out the odor that was preventing her from enjoying her lemonade.

Later, as I was leaving, as if to vindicate herself, she pointed out the plant. Even though I was now closer, I still couldn’t smell it but I recognized it as the same one I had admired and had been unable to identify years earlier. When I asked, she said it was the starfish flower.

The starfish is a variety of carrion flower. These flowers produce a putrid odor, probably from the insects that pollinate them, that some say is similar to rotting flesh.  I’m not sure why I didn’t smell it. I also wondered why my friend had it in her garden if she didn’t like the smell. Maybe, I though as I walked through her gate, its beauty makes up for its smell – sometimes.


This post is linked to Travel Photo Discovery’s Travel Photo Mondays. Be sure to head over and check out other photos from around the world.

A Vibrant Bouquet Tropical Flowers

One of the best things about the tropics is the profusion of flowering plants. They spill out from gardens, line country roads and overhang private walkways, and paint my surroundings in vibrant red, yellow, purple, and white.

During the past year, I’ve written several times about the tropical flowers I’ve been reacquainted with and those I’ve been introduced to, and I’m still finding more new (to me) flowers. Here are a few:

Tropical Flowers – Queen Achmea Bromeliad

Tropical Flowers, Queen Achmea

Queen Achmea Bromeliad

If you make only one flower in your lifetime, like the Queen Achmea does, it would have to be your masterpiece. Don’t you agree that this is?

I discovered the Queen Achmea bromeliad at Ahh…Ras Natango earlier this year. Tamika, one of the owners, had posted a photo on their Facebook page. My eyes popped open when I saw it. I thought initially, that she had tied a pink ribbon on the plant. When I clicked the photo, I noticed that the ‘ribbon’ was part of the plant. I called Tamika right away and told her I wanted to see it. The beauty of this flower left me speechless. I stared at it for a long time… Although it can take a year, when the plant finally blooms, it lasts for up to two months.

Note: Bromeliads include the pineapple.

Tropical Flowers – Torch Ginger

Tropical Flowers, slightly opened Torch Ginger

Torch Ginger

The color is what drew me to this torch ginger, which grows in the backyard at my stepmother’s. I was fortunate to see this slightly opened one and then later to get a photo of one that was fully opened. The torch ginger is known by several different names and also comes in pink. They are used in floral arrangements and, in south-east Asia, used in salads.

Tropical Flowers, fully opened torch ginger

Torch ginger

Tropical Flowers – Jade

I noticed this flower at the home of family friends. She’s the gardening enthusiast. (Their entire yard is a blanket of flowers – from hibiscus to orchids – several varieties – to bromeliads and impatients and lily ponds. There are even benches that encourage you to stop and contemplate the beauty around you.  I could have done a few posts entirely from the flowers I photographed in their backyard.)

Jade, tropical flower

Jade Flower

The jade plant I’m used to is the one commonly called the money tree. It’s a succulent and has thick shiny leaves. They make great house or office plants. I had one for many years. This jade flower is used to make leis. Can you imagine the beautiful it makes?

Tropical Flowrs – Night Blooming Cereus

The night blooming cereus blooms once a year and only at night when it attracts a special moth which pollinates it. When that happens, the flower begins opening slowly around 10:00 p.m. While its blooming, it perfumes the air with a gentle fragrance. I took this photo around midnight on the night it bloomed.

Tropical flowers - night blooming cereus

Double Night Blooming Cereus

By dawn, it will be wilted. This is how it looked the next morning.

Tropical Flower, Night Blooming Cereus

Wilted night blooming cereus


This week, I’m linking to Travel Photo Monday. Be sure to check them out for more photos from around the world.

The Night Blooming Cereus

I’ve been hearing about the night blooming cereus for at least three years now. As the name suggests, this plant from the flowering cactus family, blooms only at night — and only once per year. I was lucky, this time, to be visiting family when their night blooming cereus bloomed on Friday night; luckier still because I had my camera, and it put out not one but four blooms.

Night Blooming Cereus seen from the side


It’s a slow process, this unfolding of the petals, but a lot more fun than watching paint dry. The bud begins its leisurely awakening around 10 pm. But by morning, the flower has wilted. It will come alive again when the special moth it attracts pollinates it.

Two night blooming cereus

Double flower

There I was on Friday night, going out to the back yard every hour or so, camera at the ready, to see how open the flower was. And each time, I’d take a few photos. I wish I’d taken some before photos.

Anyway, I did this about three times. Each time, the flower looked as if it was open just a bit more than the last. Even though they weren’t fully open, the fragrance from the night blooming cereus bathed the backyard in the most subtle perfume that I didn’t mind going again and again. I wish I could have bottled the scent.

Almost fully opened night blooming cereus

Single cereus

The waiting was the hardest. At around midnight, I started to feel tired and decided, reluctantly, to go to sleep. I was a bit disappointed not to be able to see the full flowering of the night blooming cereus but I was happy to have seen it at all, and happier still to be able to take these photos.

Wilted Night Blooming Cereus

Wilted cereus

By morning, the flower looked spent, like someone who’d been partying all night.

Here’s a time lapse video I found on YouTube of the opening of the night blooming cereus.

This week, I’m linking this post to Travel Photo Monday and Tablescraper. Be sure to check out the other photos that are posted there.


Holywell Recreational Park

Despite still nursing a broken ankle, last weekend I accepted an invitation to brunch and a drive up into the mountains to Holywell Recreational Park (pronounced Hollywell), a 25-acre park that is part of the Blue and John Crow Mountains.

Holywell Recreational Park Entrance

Holywell Entrance

Mountains surrounding Holywell

Mist on the mountain

Grounds at Holywell

View of the grounds

Flowers and the mountains, Holywell

Flowers and mountain

Holywell is located about 3,000 feet above sea level and about an hour’s drive from Kingston. The drive takes you up mountain roads that are narrow, winding, potholed and not very well signposted, through communities like Strawberry Hill, Gordon Town, Irish Town, Craigton, Redlight, Hardwar Gap, and Newcastle. It’s a ride that’s definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone who gets carsick. The views, however, are spectacular and with temperatures about 10 degrees cooler than in Kingston, it’s the perfect summertime escape.

Lilac flower, Holywell


Holywell Recreational Park is a nature lover’s domain with several species of ferns, wild raspberries, cheeseberries, epiphytes, nasturtiums, impatients, trees such as the Blue Mahoe (the national tree), Caribbean Pine, and Milkwood, and several species of endemic birds.

Cup + Saucer flower, Holywell

Cup + Saucer flower, local name

It’s the perfect place to go to escape the hustle and bustle and heat of the city. At Holywell, you can hike any of the five trails – Blue Mahoe, Oatley Mountain, Waterfall, Shelter, and Wag Water/Dick’s Pond – that go from easy to moderately difficult and can take from 20 to 90 minutes to complete.

Hydrangea, Holywell


For those who want to stay over, Holywell Recreational Park offers three furnished cabins – the Cupressus (2 bedrooms), Hotlips (one bedroom with 2 single beds), and Mountain Yacca (studio with 2 single beds) – with all amenities, including fireplaces (it gets very cold, by Jamaican standards, in the mountains). The only drawback is that you have to book at least a month in advance.

Visitor Center, Holywell

Visitor Center

In addition, there’s a discovery zone where kids can play and learn about wildlife, camping facilities, visitor center, picnic areas, a plant nursery and a parking lot.

One of the guides showed us cheese and raspberries that grow wild in the park. The cheeseberries, as they’re known locally, are a bit sweeter than the raspberries, and the raspberries are a brighter red than what I’m used to seeing in the US.

Holywell Cheeseberries


Raspberries from Holywell


I definitely plan to return to Holywell when my ankle’s stronger and I can tackle the trail. Even though I couldn’t move around as I wanted to, I enjoyed the view of the mountains, the flowers, the refreshing air and cooler temperature.


Particulars for Holywell Recreational Park:

Entrance: $5.00 (adults) / $2 (children)

Cabins: $50 or $70, depending on cabin size

Oatley Mountain Trail Guided Tour: $5

Camping: $5 per person/night

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

For more photos, please check out Travel Photo Discovery and Travel World Online as well.