Corpse Flower Update! July 21, 2010

Lois – some now call her Slow-is, thanks to a tweet received earlier this week – continues to progress, albeit not as fast as we had expected.  She didn’t grow in height or girth today, but her spathe continued to open.  The top 8” or so is mostly pulled away from the spadix, and the front flap is also opening up.  Both Zac and I have discerned faint whiffs of an unsavory odor occasionally puffing from her direction.  It started out smelling a bit like mildewed laundry.  Now it is more like a faint memory of rotten fish.  If we get too close, however, she can sometimes bring tears to our eyes…!  But then, at other times, no odor is present.  This is apparently “normal” as the plant typically sends out wafts of the pollinator-attracting “perfume” in waves.

Zac and Soni and I have been asked dozens of times “When will Lois open?”  We really can’t give a precise time.  Based on the information we’d received from other locations, we had understood that once the spathe started to pull away from the spadix the spathe would open to its full extent in 4 to 6 hours.  But Lois seems determined to be different.  It has now been 24 hours.  However, as mentioned, she has not remained static but is just not moving as fast as projected.

The color of the inner surface of the spathe is now clearly visible:   it is a deep, velvety, almost midnight purple.  In looking at examples of other corpse flowers, Lois seems to be on the darkest end of the spectrum.  Many others have spathes that are considerably lighter, almost maroon in color, while someone described Lois’s color as “aubergine.”  We think she is stunningly beautiful.

7.21.10 Amorphophallus titanum [3 pm]
Lois’ spathe, up close! See more of the latest Corpse Flower photos on Flickr.

Because we are not going to attempt to pollinate the female flowers inside the bottom portion of Lois’ spathe, we think the bloom will remain open for a couple of days.  Her smell, according to others with experience with these fantastic plants, should only be truly potent for the first 8-12 hours, and then will lessen considerably.  We’re hoping to devise a “stinkometer” so people can indicate how potent they think her odor is when they visit.

Please continue to follow us online at on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to help you determine when to visit.

All hail the stinky queen!

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About Nancy

Nancy is Director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center and curator of entomology. A plant ecologist by training, she specializes in the interaction between insects, especially butterflies, and plants. The tropics are her favorite habitat, and she heads south to Central and South America whenever possible.

13 thoughts on “Corpse Flower Update! July 21, 2010

  1. I mentioned on Twitter that, with her rich coloring and etched ruching, Lois could’ve modeled for a Georgia O’Keefe painting! Tracking her taunting striptease has been an engaging, one-of-a-kind experience; hope to visit the Cockrell Center again, now that it’s really “Show & Smell” time! The lovely Lois, erumpent at last…

  2. How exciting!! So the 8-12 hours of potent smell…does that begin when she is fully open, or has it already started since the spathe has separated from the spadix?

  3. Hi Amanda! She has already started to smell, but really only to the staff who can get really close to her. We anticipate that the smell will get much stronger, soon – but she’s been totaly unpredictable so far. We will definitely post the news when the smell is in full gear!

  4. Y’know, I think ol’ Lois was just waiting for Nancy and everyone to come back from vacations and family reunions before she really opened up to the world. Ya gotta respect her–she’s takin’ her time, feelin’ her rhythm, goin’ slow and long and she does it all on her own terms! Remember this energy: it’s good birthing energy for anyone! Zac has been awesome! What a happening for Houston! Thanks to everyone at HMNS who stays cheerful…

  5. I think it would be a great idea for HMNS to buy some guest books so everyone can leave their imprint on this momentous occasion! I saw her last night and had a blast! Thanks HMNS, Zach and team!

  6. Hi Josh – we’re not really sure. Lois has been on a totally unique timetable, and she’s defied all our predictions so far. She’s already on her way to being about halfway open, though – so it should be within the next day or so.

  7. I am driving down from Dallas tonight to see her, thinking I’ll be there around 5 in the morning. I can’t wait. Hopefully she will be in full bloom for me! But I’ll take her just as she is…

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