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
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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs