Rare, stinky corpse flower to bloom in Houston

Experts say a rare, stinky corpse flower is expected to bloom this weekend in Houston. (Photo Credit: Jason Walker)

July 9, 2010 1:31:18 PM PDT
A rare, stinky corpse flower is expected to bloom this weekend in Houston. Botanists at the Houston Museum of Natural Science are measuring the flower daily, and Friday said it stood nearly 5 feet tall and weighing 30 pounds. The museum's plant is nicknamed Lois after a former staff member's mother.

The Amorphophallus titanum -- which is native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra -- has only been seen in bloom in the United States 28 times, including twice in Texas, said Nancy Greig, the museum's Cockrell Butterfly Center director. The Latin name translates to "giant shapeless phallus."

When in bloom, the plants emit a foul odor that attracts pollinating carrion beetles hoping to lay their eggs in rotting flesh. The plant has a central stalk that is surrounded by a leafy, purple collar. Inside that stalk is a hollow gas chamber that heats its natural oil and emits the stinky smell for eight to 12 hours. It looks like a tower surrounded by a frilly, liver-colored Elizabethan collar, according to the Houston Chronicle. Thousands of male and female flowers surround the base.

The plant doesn't flower every year and when it does, it's only for two days. The flower can grow up to 200 pounds, and starts as a $75 walnut-sized corm.

A corpse flower bloomed in Nacogdoches in 2004 and the smell was so bad, fans surrounded the plant to blow the scent away so visitors could approach.


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