Will rare ‘corpse flower’ ruin the ambience at a Houston wedding this weekend?
HOUSTON — The flower girl at Jessica Zabala’s wedding is purple, 6 feet tall and uninvited. It also smells like dead bodies.
She is Lois, a rare “corpse flower,” deemed the world’s stinkiest bud.
Lois is unexpectedly blooming in the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in the room right next to where Zabala is marrying Jonathan Smith today. “I don’t need a florist anymore,” Zabala laughs. “I’ve got Lois.”
The flower is an amorphophallus titanum, a type that has only bloomed 29 times in the United States. It’s happened twice in Texas but never at the museum’s Cockrell Butterfly Center, which hosts about 50 weddings a year.
“I did not know that Lois was quietly sprouting in the greenhouse across the street,” Zabala said, donning an “I Love Lois” button that the museum gave her.
Deforestation has left the flower endangered in its native tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, said Nancy Greig, the butterfly center’s director. Six years ago, the center paid $75 for a “little walnut-sized tuber” from a Raleigh, N.C., nursery that specializes in exotic plants.
The flower’s dead-body smell attracts the flies and beetles it needs to pollinate. Many only bloom once. It can only blossom after it is 7 years old and weighs 30 pounds, exactly the size of Houston’s plant.
Lois was about two-thirds of the way to full bloom by Thursday and between 3,000 and 4,000 people were visiting daily. She will only stay open about two days, and the smell usually dissipates within 12 hours, Greig said.
Museum experts initially thought she would bloom two weeks ago, and Greig was certain the stench would overtake the museum by Thursday.
“But she has not turned on the funk yet,” Greig said.
So Zabala and Smith remain uncertain. Will their wedding stink? Lois will decide.
Lois is a rare flower at Houston’s Cockrell Butterfly Center.