(via BibliOdyssey: Succulent Carrion)
The main taxonomic characteristic in the 1790s was the extraordinary flower parts produced by most member species. In order to attract the blow flies that pollinate the flowers, many Stapelia species (and related/synonymous Orbea varietals) give off a stench of rotting flesh. The deceit is so effective that the flies lay eggs in the flowers, not realising there is no food to sustain emerging maggots.
"The hairy, oddly textured and coloured appearance of many Stapelia flowers has been claimed to resemble that of rotting meat, and this, coupled with their odour, has earned the most commonly grown members of the Stapelia genus the common name of ‘carrion flowers’. [W]
”[..] named by Linnaeus after the 17th-century botanist Johannes van Stapel, there are about 100 species taking their common names both from the flower shape and the smell of dead meat designed to attract flies as pollinators.” [C]