Something is rotten in the state of… the Starfish Cactus

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” Officer Marcellus says to sentry Horatio as Hamlet determinedly seeks to follow his father’s ghost and hear his words.  [The Tragedy of Hamlet – Prince of Denmark (1.4.90)… also see this scene in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s award-winning movie production of Hamlet (2009)* and read the entire play]

Back at home there was a whiff of something rotten as I smelled the strange looking flower that Larry was pointing to in a hanging planter by the redwood deck stairs to our garden.

This is the flower of the Orbea variegata plant, with various English common names such as the Starfish Cactus, Toad Cactus, and Starfish Flower.  It is native to the coastal belt of the Western Cape of South Africa. (See Western Cape – South Africa*)

It is also known as the Carrion Plant because of the carrion-like (decaying flesh) smell of the flowers that attracts flies and other insects for pollination.

Even the nearby pufferfish* seem to be wary and spooked by the smell.

I prefer the allusion to the name Starfish because it reminds me of the Starfish Story.*

One morning a man was walking along a beach and saw a boy picking up starfish and throwing them into the ocean.  The man inquired what he was doing.  The boy said, “The sun is rising and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

The man laughed and said, “But there’s too many starfish on this beach.  You can’t possibly make a difference.”  The boy politely listened to his words and bent down and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean.

Turning back to the man, the boy said, “I made a difference to that one.”

And together we can make a difference to so many more.

Encore: El niño y las estrellas de mar*

La historia de la estrella de mar*

Natalia Lafourcade – Soleda y El Mar (En Manos de Los Macorines) [La Fiesta Parte II]*

Los Ángeles Azules – Nunca Es Suficiente ft. Natalia Lafourcade*

Natalia Lafourcade: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.



About Bill D.

Bill is a retired RN who has enjoyed working as a docent in a well-known historic house museum, and now is a proud volunteer in San Diego's newest state-of-the-art hospital, Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center. He enjoys reading, writing, and meditating, especially about mindfulness as discussed by Zen master, spiritual leader, and author Thich Nhat Hanh. (Photo credit: Jokie Tolentino)
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3 Responses to Something is rotten in the state of… the Starfish Cactus

  1. ACountryBoy says:

    the starfish cactus is beautiful. Never seen one before.


  2. Teresa says:

    I loved the story about the boy and the starfish! Thank you William!


    • Bill D. says:

      Thank you Teresa. I love the story too and find myself reciting the story to those who are wearing starfish-style jewelry and do not know the story! Gracias!


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