Houston’s odoriferous Lois is done raising a stink
Houston’s beloved corpse flower, Lois, bit the dust Sunday evening.
Or at least her famous bloom did.
After weeks of drawing record crowds to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the spadex of the stinky flower collapsed about 4:45 p.m. — leaving visitors to mourn the loss.
“We came to see a piece of history,” said Mark Swist, a 27-year-old Austin resident who was waiting in line when the bloom fell. “It’s kinda disappointing to be so close. We wanted to see it in real life, but we’re just enjoying being here and the experience.”
About 65,000 visitors made their way to see Lois in July, more than triple the Cockrell Butterfly Center’s June figures.
The so-called corpse flower, nicknamed for its stench, drew a cultlike following since word of her potential bloom spread earlier this month, with thousands watching the flower via webcam. It was only the second rare Amorphophallus titanum bloom in Texas and the 29th in the nation.
“These last few weeks have been crazy, exhilarating,” said Nancy Greig, director of the butterfly center. “The neatest thing for me, a botanist by training, was seeing people getting so excited about a plant.”
Cordelia Price, 54, visited Lois dozens of times and was at the center when she fell.
“I knew it was going to happen. It’s just kind of sad,” the Houston resident said. “It really was majestic when it was open.”
Now that the spadex has toppled, the rest of the visible part of the flower will actually be “sucked” back into the corm, or underground stem, Greig said. The museum plans to keep Lois on display for visitors and webcam viewers to observe her decline.
She’ll eventually be unearthed, weighed and dusted with powdered sulfur to prevent damage. When Lois dries off, she’ll be repotted in fresh soil and kept dry until next spring, at which time experts hope she will produce a leaf.
It could take years for Lois to recuperate enough mass to bloom again, experts said, adding that they hope the next time her tuber is bigger and that she’ll be able to produce fruit. The museum has another corpse flower in the greenhouse that could flower sometime in the future.
They’ve learned a few lessons that they hope will help with future blooms.
“All flowers are different individually,” Greig said. “Maybe this one was a tall and skinny kind that doesn’t open much.”
Greig and others have said that Lois may not have reached full bloom because she was moved from the greenhouse to the exhibit area. The temperature drop could have put the plant in shock, they said.
“Certainly we would not subject it to air conditioning as we did in our ignorance,” Greig said.
The museum stayed open around-the-clock most of last week to accommodate the tremendous public interest in the rare plant. Some of the extra revenue will go to the center’s capital campaign, Greig said.
Many Houstonians felt a sense of pride at being hosts to such a rare occurrence in the botany world.
“It’s cool to have such a rare event take place so close to where we live,” said David McWhirter, 23.