“Corpse Flower” animates crowds

A rare Sumatran plant at the Houston Museum of Natural Science has been drawing major crowds since last week. The so-called “corpse flower” needs to open before its signature rotting-flesh smell can be fully experienced, but the visitors are flocking through anyway. KUHF Health, Science and Technology Reporter Carrie Feibel has more.


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The plant is named “Lois” and she stands five feet tall, separated from the animal onlookers by a low divider. She may be the most photographed plant in Texas, and she also has her own live web-cam (Internet Explorer required) and Twitter feed. Chris Webb came from Clear Lake to have a look.

“I’m amazed, actually. It looks kind of like a cabbage head with a point on it.”

Unlike most of the visitors, Chris and her husband are not snapping multiple photos. They’re wearing gym clothes.

“We’re going to take a run around Rice but we couldn’t resist coming in and watching this probably once-in-a-lifetime — for us — bloom. We just hope it happens while we’re here.”

That’s everyone’s hope. They want to be there when the green spathe falls away from the central spike, and the purple interior is revealed. That’s when the gasified, noxious, bug-attracting odor will pour out. Zac Stayton is the resident botanist. So far, only he has experienced a hint of what’s to come.

“There’s a very faint odor when I get near her, especially to water. That I can pick up on, it’s almost a musty, moldy pumpkin smell. Like rotting vegetation.”

At first, the museum officials guessed that Lois would bloom last Friday. Then they said the weekend. Now they’re simply saying “any moment now.” Is it possible that Lois has a bit of stage fright?

“I mean we’ve had 4,000 people a day almost coming to see her, so I can imagine that all these people going through and all this flashing may have delayed her slightly. But she’s right on target, just taking a little bit longer than we anticipated.”

And so with noses sniffing, and cameras clicking, they wait. Carrie Feibel, KUHF News.

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