News / USA

Smell of Rotting Flesh Attracting Crowds in Houston

Visitors to the Museum of Natural Science in Houston revel in the sight and smell of the "corpse flower" (Amorphophallus Titanum)
Visitors to the Museum of Natural Science in Houston revel in the sight and smell of the "corpse flower" (Amorphophallus Titanum)

Multimedia

Greg Flakus

Over the past few weeks, thousands of people flocked to the Museum of Natural Science in Houston, to see - and smell - a rare plant from the rain forests of Sumatra, in Indonesia.  The unlikely attraction, an odor like that of a rotting corpse that the flower sent out as it bloomed.  This is only the 29th time one of these rare flowers has bloomed in the United States, and the museum stayed open 24 hours a day until the full bloom occurred.  

This is the Amorphophallus Titanum, also known as the "corpse flower," because of the foul odor it produces when it blooms.

Crowds started forming at Houston's Museum of Natural Science in early July, as people young and old came to see the plant museum staffers had nicknamed "Lois."

The progress of the bloom was checked closely by museum horticulturalist Zac Stayton.

"What makes it so rare is that it is highly endangered in the wild, in Sumatra, and it is so hard to get to bloom in cultivation," said Stayton.  "Some people have had these for 15 or 20 years and never been able to get one to bloom, so we are really lucky here to have one."

The ugly stench that starts emanating from the plant as it begins to bloom is actually an example of nature's false advertising. In this case, Zac Stayton says, the flies and beetles drawn to the plant are the victims of a vegetative con game.

"They fly to it thinking they can lay their eggs there and it will be a good place for their eggs to hatch out and eat the rotting meat, but they get tricked into just pollinating the flower," explained Stayton.

But no trick was needed to draw people here to see the plant.  They had their eyes - and nostrils - wide open.

Many people even kept track of Lois online, through a 24-hour-a-day camera feed on the Museum's web site.

Since the space was small and climate-controlled, staffers allowed only small groups in for a few minutes at a time, which was enough to cure most people's olfactory curiosity.

Museum staffer Nancy Greig had to spend several hours in the smelly room.

"I think you get used to it after a while," said Greig.  "Once in a while it will get worse, so then it is a little bit nauseating, but it is actually fine, it is not too bad, I am used to it."

After several hours of stinky glory, Lois' bloom wilted, the smell subsided and the crowds moved on to see other, less odorous, museum attractions.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid