BIG botanical buzz
Crowds in Houston (and elsewhere) await the imminent blossoming of the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s six-foot-tall rare corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanium), affectionately named “Lois,” that bears resemblance to an oversized endive.
When Lois opens (we’re on day 14 of “bloom watch” here), it will be the 29th such cultivated corpse flower-blooming event in the U.S., and only the second in Texas.
As the plant’s outer leaves begin to unfurl (looking like a large calla lily with a purple Elizabethan collar), the bud becomes a gas chamber, emitting an odor that smells like a decomposing carcass (hence the common “corpse” name) to attract pollinating carrion beetles. Total smell time may last from eight to 12 hours. Once opened, the flower is short-lived, shrinking in size days later, then dying back to an underground, bulb-like corm. According to the HMNS blog, “once the flower dies back the plant may not flower again for many years, if ever.” During the brief flowering phase, museum horticulturalists will attempt to hand-pollinate the plant to help form future seeds.
To accommodate visitors, the museum is now open 24/7, and a live Web cam, streaming to a dedicated page with Twitter feed in sidebar, is entertaining viewers. Foursquare users who check in for the first time at the museum will gain free admission (an $8 value) to the Cockrell Butterfly Center where Lois is housed.
To help commemorate the event, Lois’s enthusiastic fans are creating corpse flower-centric music playlists, haiku, and interacting with the person(s) behind @CorpzFlowrLois, a rogue Twitter account.
Photo credit: U.S. Botanical Garden