Will rare ‘corpse flower’ ruin the am­bi­ence at a Hous­ton wed­ding this week­end?

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Ramit Plushnick-Masti

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.

David J. Phillip

Lois is a rare flower at Hous­ton’s Cock­rell But­ter­fly Cen­ter.

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