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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid