|Lois mania will soon die down, but we hope her
bloom has inspired kids like Elora
(who made this amazing hat with her mom!)
to stay excited about science.
Check out the rest of our Lois photos on Flickr.
NOTE: The last ticket time available to see Lois tonight will be 11 pm. The Museum returns to normal operating hours tomorrow, Monday, July 26. Lois will remain on display throughout this week, and the Lois webcam will remain live, while she works on returning to a dormant state.
Lois is nearing the end. What a show it has been! This is what has happened over the past couple of days.
Friday, the female flowers inside Lois’s chamber (the swollen portion at the bottom of the spathe) became receptive. When this happens, the big spadix starts to heat up to volatize the stinky pheromone (scent) and send it far and wide. In nature, insects attracted to rotting, stinky stuff such as decaying bodies would come flocking, thinking they would find something good to eat or especially a place to lay their eggs. Of course this is nothing but a trick. The insects crawl down into the corpse flower’s chamber through small openings around the spadix where the spathe is constricted. Hopefully these insects had already been fooled by another corpse flower, and so came bearing pollen (completely inadvertent on their part). Once inside they would roam around, scrambling over the flowers inside, looking for the rotting meat. Alas, it is just a hoax, and they are trapped inside the chamber for 24 hours or so. Meanwhile, the male flowers open to shed their pollen. Only then are the insects able to crawl back out – and fly on to the next corpse flower, perhaps many miles away.
So – in Lois’s case, Friday her female flowers were receptive – so the stink was strongest to draw in pollinations. Saturday, there were only faint remnants of her scent. The female flowers are no longer receptive; now it’s the males’ turn. We plan to collect some pollen to freeze (the best way to preserve its viability) so we can send it on to any other botanical garden that might want to fertilize their corpse flower when it blooms.
In Lois’s case, she is too young and too small to be pollinated. It is very costly [Ed. note: hard on the plant] to produce that huge inflorescence (bloom) and to spend another year ripening the fruits might do her in. Instead Lois is starting to wilt and her spadix will collapse soon. We are not sure how fast this will happen, but the entire flowering structure will eventually crumble or rot and fall away, leaving only the tuber – which will have lost up to 25% of its weight.
At that point we will unearth Lois and examine her tuber to make sure she’s okay. We will weigh her and dust her with powdered sulfur to prevent fungal and insect damage. After the tuber dries out for a few days we will repot her in fresh soil, but will keep it quite dry until next spring, when we hope she will produce a leaf again. It may be several more years before Lois has recuperated enough mass to bloom again. We hope that next time her tuber will be much bigger and at that point, she might be able to survive the ordeal of producing fruit.