Corpse Flower: Lois Finally Delivers
Waiting to inhale
Photos by Chasen Marshall
We can all finally get back to caring about things that matter (the oil spill, the state of our education system, the MLS All-Star game, etc.) because Lois the Corpse Flower has finally given her audience what it wanted: Nausea.
The six-foot tall, phallus-like, hermaphrodite plant finally sent her unpleasant odor wafting through the halls of the Houston Museum of Natural Science around 3 a.m. this morning. Fortunately, the live web feed was up and running, so the crowds began flocking instantly. One museum rep, Steven Cowan, estimated that they sold nearly 3,000 tickets by mid-morning. For a museum pool, Cowan guessed that over 11,000 will come through the front doors today to get a sight and whiff of Lois.
On an average weekend day, HMNS will see 1,000 to 2,000 visitors.
"She's become a bigger deal than we ever expected," said Nancy Greig, director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center, where Lois currently resides.
Bottle that (putrid) smell
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As for the smell? It's a mix between fuzzy lasagna, days-old tuna and wilted lettuce -- so, the office refrigerator.
Zac Stayton, the HMNS semi-celebrity horticulturalist, had a different description: "It's like rotten, wet, musty laundry and a bait shop.
"When I got here this morning around six, the smell was unbearable," Stayton said. "It turned my stomach. I had to step out every now and then to get some air."
Around lunchtime, patrons were waiting as long as an hour to set foot in the same room with Lois. As they got closer to where the plant was situated, the heat increased and the smell got funkier. Museum staff had to up the temperature around the plant to the mid-80s and add a humidifier to recreate a rainforest-like environment, where Lois' species, amorphophallus titanium, typically reside.
The "Stink-O-Meter" was set at 8 of 10. One woman even brought empty glass jars and what looked like a turkey baster, trying to bottle the smell and mail it to her 13-year-old nephews.
But that wasn't the only odd behavior. One anonymous individual sent Stayton and the museum staff a bunch of cigars with a note: "It's a BLOOM!" The Houston School of Floral Design brought a lei, and another fan brought a yellow rose. Hair Balls wishes it got so much positive feedback when we stunk up the place.
Originally it was believed that Lois' stench was housed in the pointed spadex, which extends above the deep-purple bloom. The smell is actually generated by a row of sterile male flowers situated at the base of the spadex. Once the spade, or exterior leaf-like flaps, peeled back, the noxious fumes were released. Also, it should be known that Lois is not a flower, even though she "blooms"; she's an inflorescence, or cluster of flowers.
The museum is buzzing with excitement over this stinky plant. Buttons are being sold, lines are growing and HMNS has experienced a spike in memberships thanks to Lois.
As for the next spectacle to match all the attention Lois generated, well, Greig isn't looking that far ahead: "I'm just enjoying the smell while it lasts."
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