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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest 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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid