Lois, you're a tease. And you stink.
July 14, 2010 9:47 AM   Subscribe

During the past 4 days, the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science has stayed open 24 hours to accommodate the record crowds filing into the museum at all hours. Why? A rare Amorphophallus titanium, aka “Corpse Flower,” named Lois is finally about to bloom. Now, Lois is not your average, run-of-the-mill stinky plant. Only 28 Corpse Flowers have bloomed in the US, so Lois has become a local celebrity with her own blog, Flickr feed, live webcam and cupcakes. She even has her own playlist, with songs such as “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynrd, “I’m Comin’ Out” by Diana Ross and the classic “Smelly Cat” by Phoebe from Friends. And like any trendy Corpse Flower, Lois also has her own Twitter account. She's also a bit of a diva. Yet despite predictions, Lois still hasn't bloomed as of Wednesday morning. In response, Lois makes excuses, bad jokes, complaints and snarky comments.
posted by yeoja (30 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Love the #shutuprory. This is one sassy, stinky flower. I like it.
posted by amethysts at 9:58 AM on July 14, 2010

The Twitter account is great. Loved this one
posted by IanMorr at 9:59 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

This could be a viral in reverse. Tim Burton ought to build a movie up around this congruence of media.
posted by Babblesort at 10:00 AM on July 14, 2010

The positive response that "Hey everybody, come over here, this smells terrible, check it out!" incites in people may even confuse me more than "Ugh! This is disgusting! Try it!" does. People are funny.
posted by .kobayashi. at 10:01 AM on July 14, 2010

twitter? webcam? playlist? for a flower? I do believe the internet has jumped the shark snark....
posted by HuronBob at 10:02 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Playlist need U-Stink-But-I-♥-U.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:06 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

From the wiki page: The first documented flowerings in the United States were at New York Botanical Garden in 1937 and 1939. This flowering also inspired the designation of the titan arum as the official flower of the Bronx in 1939, only to be replaced in 2000 by the day lily.

A giant, rarely seen stinky flower is what you want to represent you? And it's not even vaguely a native plant? And then it remained the official flower for 61 years? Titan Arum hype is amazingly powerful.

And the name is an honor to the mother of a former employee, though I can't find any word on if it's a good thing or a bad thing.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:09 AM on July 14, 2010

The family and I got to see Audrey the Corpse Flower and her attractive bloom this past March in our hometown. What a revolting and beautiful experience!
posted by psylosyren at 10:11 AM on July 14, 2010

I love this kind of Twitter use. I've also seen Twitter accounts for Minne the Lake Creature, and for the Natural History Whale. They're good resources for interesting links to share with my kids, and I'd love to find more of the same type of thing.
posted by padraigin at 10:16 AM on July 14, 2010

Just wanted to promote my local corpse flower (bloomed in 2005 and 2008, represent!)
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:18 AM on July 14, 2010

twitter? webcam? playlist? for a flower?

I think it's more interesting than most celebrity driven content.
posted by HumanComplex at 10:19 AM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

What's with all the Splenda references?
posted by anthill at 10:20 AM on July 14, 2010

A friend of mine has been visiting the flower, and taking pics.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:21 AM on July 14, 2010

Aha, here's a bit of an explanation.
posted by anthill at 10:22 AM on July 14, 2010

Lois is a tease and a slacker. Western Illinois University (Macomb) has had two, count 'em two of these bloom in recent months; look yez at stop motion of the second one. Sorry, Houston, but Macomb has the funk, y'all!
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:32 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Corpse flower is native to Malaysia - here's a concrete version randomly along the way seen only by cable car going uphill to Genting Highlands
posted by infini at 10:33 AM on July 14, 2010

One of the A. titanums at UC Berkeley's Botanical Garden bloomed at the beginning of the month, it was lovely [self links] and not nearly as pungent as I thought it would be even though I was just a few inches away from the flower. The scent (putrescine) came in small bursts and was more like what one encounters when nearby a dead mouse on a breezy day vs what Horatio must smell when he's whipping off his sunglasses.

What's really neat is the plant generates quite a bit of heat, which can be easily felt from a short distance without touching the plant (thermal image with plant and human for comparison).

The Houston Chronicle is wildly incorrect about Lois being the 29th bloom in the US, there's been far more then that (nearly 100 on this list of public US blooms last updated in 2008). Additionally, there's a lot of these in private cultivation now, seeds are readily available on eBay. Better plan on having a big greenhouse if you want to grow one though, the non-flowering leafy stage can grow 20' tall.
posted by jamaro at 11:12 AM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

We have a corpse flowering opening here in Minnesota; I mentioned it in my column a few days ago, having had some experience with the flower in the past:

But life is a circle, at least if animated lions are to be believed, and evidence of it comes in the form of a flower that smells like a corpse when it blooms. Specifically, we're talking about Gustavus Adolphus' Titan arum, better known as a corpse flower, and, in this instance, specifically known as "Perry." It's about to bloom for the first time since 2007, according to a story by Brian Ojanpa of the Mankato Free Press, attracting carrion-eating beetles, who germinate the plant, and goths alike. This reporter has smelled a corpse flower in bloom before, and also smelled a dead person, and the two are not dissimilar, but viewers who are hoping to be exposed to the full stink of death may be a little disappointed by the flower’s somewhat subtler bouquet. They'd be better off simply purchasing some cadaver training pseudo scent.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:13 AM on July 14, 2010

infini, those concrete sculptures are awesome but they aren't of Titan arums, they are of the equally delightful and corpsy smelly Rafflesia arnoldii. Despite the giant size of Titan arums, Rafflesia arnoldii produce the world's biggest flower as the Titan arum's flowers are little tiny things hidden at the base of the inflorescence.
posted by jamaro at 11:18 AM on July 14, 2010

pah, I had it confused with the Stinking Corpse lily Genus Rafflesia, family Rafflesiaceae (which also smells like a cadaver)
posted by infini at 11:19 AM on July 14, 2010

Just wanted to promote my local corpse flower (bloomed in 2005 and 2008, represent!)
And 2003!
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:19 AM on July 14, 2010

Jamaro, just realized that myself... right behind you :)
posted by infini at 11:20 AM on July 14, 2010

I saw the bloom in DC a few years ago.

I'm going to have to say that the smell has the flavor (yeah, you can taste it) of the corpses I've been around (EMS work), but there is something vegetative about it, too.

This is definitely a thing worth seeing. It reminds me of time bandits.
posted by poe at 11:43 AM on July 14, 2010

I saw the corpse flower at UC Berkeley bloom. It was beautiful. I caught it a day after its peak, and even then, the area around the plant smelled like a rat had died in an old farmhouse wall.

a familiar and perhaps even disturbingly comforting smell to many who grew up in older homes in New England.
posted by zippy at 11:56 AM on July 14, 2010

I wish they'd stop calling the corpse flower 'rare' -- that's just sensationalist marketing. I've seen three in the past five years in CA alone. As evidenced by this thread, lots of other people have seen them recently too.

They're not rare -- they just bloom infrequently. Call it what it is.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:19 PM on July 14, 2010

I used to work at an arboretum 20+ years ago. One area developed an awful stink, which my boss said was from a type of corpse flower. Eventually we got down there to do some clearing, and discovered that no, it wasn't a corpse flower, it was corpses.

A criminal forensics student was studying the progression of insects in dead bodies, and had a bunch of decomposing animals set out in cages. We'd seen her going up into the woods, but thought nothing of it. Turns out her research was quite groundbreaking in the field...but it wasn't corpse flowers.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:49 PM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yes, the museum is overhyping this flaky flower and declaring 'any minute now' since Saturday. (I've had their webcam feed in a Firefox tab since Monday and check on it often.) Ti has stopped growing vertically for over a day, and I wonder if the botanists are beginning to worry if there's something wrong with the plant, and whether we're going to get a tweet of "Houston, we have liftoff" or "Houston, we have a problem."
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:53 PM on July 14, 2010

This has been all over my twitter and Facebook from my Houston friends. I like a good Little Shop of Horrors joke as well as the next guy, but I'll be really glad when it blooms (or not).
posted by immlass at 2:19 PM on July 14, 2010

UC Berkeley has another one blooming in the next week or so; this one is very small because it's growing from a younger (smaller) corm.
posted by jamaro at 10:44 AM on July 17, 2010

Lois is finally blooming after a few weeks of being coy. You can monitor via her webcam or come pay $8 at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences to smell her in person.
posted by cross_impact at 8:05 AM on July 22, 2010

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