To the Corpse Flower Community: Thank you!

Fittingly, it was Lois herself – or rather, her Twitter alter-ego @CorpzFlowrLois, that said it best: the most amazing part about Lois-mania was that she “connected a community of newfound botany enthusiasts.”

Along with all of the other staff from across the entire museum that came together to keep the place open 24 hours a day for almost 2 solid weeks – I was totally blown away by and extremely grateful for the outpouring of love from the Houston community for our not-so-little Lois. During the height of Lois’ bloom, more than 5000 people were watching her on our webcam (generously hosted through Rice University) and tweeting about her every move (or lack thereof). As of  Sunday, July 25, more than 68,000 people had come to the museum to visit Lois in person – and that number continues to grow, even as she returns to a dormant state.

7.23.10 Amorphophallus titanum [7 am]
Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm with us!

Amazingly, Lois spawned a few minor internet celebrities. There was Zac, dubbed our “hot-iculturist” by the Houston Chronicle, who joined twitter (@hortzac) by popular demand, and who now has a fan-generated Facebook page “Horticulturalist Zac Stayton Needs A Show on TV.” And, of course, there was #redshirtguy – Chronicle Reporter Julio Cortez – so dubbed because he wore a red shirt the first day that he blocked the view of Lois on the Museum’s webcam while setting up his own time-lapse camera – spawning outraged Twitter-shouting to get him to move as well as many calls to the Museum alerting us to this fact – and then a daily vote to determine what color shirt he would wear for each day’s visit. And of course, @CorpzFlowrLois, the brainchild of CultureMap assistant editor Steven Thompson, who garnered more than 2000 Twitter followers in just over a week. There’s even a fan-generated group on Facebook for those suffering from Lois withdrawal now that she has finished blooming.

She inspired two songs (“Hey Lois” by Danny Osterwisch and “Ode to Lois” by HMNS Moran Ecoteen Kelsey Williams), a twitter-generated, crowd-sourced Lois playlist organized by @jvconcep, 50+ corpse flower haiku, as well as some incredibly creative costumes. She even almost crashed a wedding.

This is all just *so* beyond the realm of what we science geeks are used to, that we’re still walking around feeling giddily lucky that Lois decided to bloom this summer, and also rather dazed by it all.

And the blog posts! It was fascinating to read about what Lois meant to the people who came to see her – everyone seemed to walk away with a different interpretation. These are just a few of our favorites:

For Karen (@chookooloonks) – an incredibly talented photographer who features flowers on her blog quite frequently – “Take a photograph of an Amorphophallus titanum in full bloom” was on of her life list – and she followed Lois’ entire blooming process closely, culminating in her post “photograph a corpse flower in bloom? CHECK.” Perhaps most moving, though, was her “Love Thursday” post, in which she ruminated on the corpse flower community – and why it’s sudden appearance is one of the things that makes Houston such a special place to live. (WARNING: if you follow the Love Thursday link, you *will* see a giant picture of my face. I’m not gonna lie – I quite like it and was honored that Karen included me in her 1000 Faces project (Zac, too!) – but I”m pointing you there solely for the wonderful writing and the sentiment expressed.)

Ed (@etee) wondered whether all the mania surrounding Lois was worth it; check out his conclusion in the post and leave a comment to share your thoughts!

I also love Ed’s final comment on the post, that “Lois was responsible for the ‘creation’ of 3 new local celebrities: @HortZac, #RedShirtGuy, and @CorpzFlowrLois. Three celebrities, not because they can play a sport, or make a film, or due to being part of a human train wreck, but because of a flower. And, because they were good at what they did. A horticulturalist, a photojournalist, and an online media editor. What role models for our kids to follow!” [Emphasis mine]

@divamover was “Obsessed with @CorpzFlowrLois” and I loved her description of the allure: “What is so interesting about a big, stinky plant?  Lois is captivating.  Disturbing.  Every “Attack of the Pod People” and “Aliens” fantasy or joke you can think of, all rolled into one. “

@saroy told us why she loves science – and it’s not just about Lois!

@adriannerussell shared her Lois obsession in the post “Funky Love” on her blog, Cabinet of Curiosities (love that title – and the current post, “nonprofit nerd reads“)

In “Lois and Me,” @pjholliday shares how through Lois, she “finally found a use for that silly new craze of sharing with the world your every move and thought,” on Twitter. It’s a beautiful post that culminates with the fact that she was “awe-struck by the beauty and unpredictable nature of Mother Earth, and re-awakened to the necessity of protecting our precious, finite resources.” Seconded!

In “Life After Lois,” @megsalice – who saw Lois 5 times in 2 weeks – pointed out one of the unexpected benefits of keeping the Butterfly Center open around the clock – the opportunity to wander the rain forest at night! Check out this post for some lovely night shots of the butterfly center.

In several posts for @planeteye, @snowcones covered Lois entire life cycle and coined perhaps the most-descriptive (and also my personal favorite) hashtag: #FUNKWATCH.

There were many, many more people who posted about Lois – if you were one of them, please share a link with us in the comments!

20100725_P7252568
Totally blown away by the crowds that showed up to meet @hortzac and @corpzflowrlois –
at midnight! More tweetup photos from etee

In the end, the most amazing thing about Lois wasn’t the rarity of her bloom, the extended waiting game, or even the smell – though these were all amazing – it was all of you: the people who blogged, tweeted, facebooked and just generally shouted and shared your excitement, questions and knowledge with us, who came here in person to experience this time of “silly joy” (to borrow a phrase from the ever-fabulous Karen of Chookooloonks) and support science education in your community. I feel honored and humbled to have been a part of this incredible experience and I hope you’ll continue sharing your love of science and the community with us as we wait for Lois to bloom again.

Though generally exhausted, I know we are all absolutely thrilled to see such an outpouring of enthusiasm for something so solidly science-based and continue to hope that many of the very enthusiastic kids who came to see Lois will have a spark of scientific inquiry ignited in their minds. Thank you to everyone who supported the museum in any capacity: following along online, spreading the word, coming here, seeing Lois, becoming members, geeking out with us, buying buttons and wearing t-shirts – it would have been extremely heartening in any time.  But please know that because this crazy-wonderful thing happened now – a very tough time for the museum industry as a whole – you’ve done immense good both in helping us to continue our efforts for science education in the Houston community and also in simply inspiring us all to keep moving.

To everyone who followed along with Lois and helped generate a level of enthusiasm that made all this possible:

THANK YOU.

19 thoughts on “To the Corpse Flower Community: Thank you!

  1. You guys were awesome, what a wonderful experience it was to watch Lois and to visit her several times throughout the process, even being able to share the experience with my sister living in Florida. I still have a very difficult time trying to explain the “obsession”…for those that don’t quite get it. I have learned so much and met some incredible people.

    Thank you to everyone that made this something that we can say Remember when…

    Thank you to the Zac, Nancy and all the Staff at our lovely museum that went above and beyond to let us enjoy this beautiful plant. You will never know how much I appreciate each and everyone of you!

    With much respect and love
    Pennie

  2. Erin, I think I speak for us all when I say – thank YOU!

    Thank you for keeping us all up to date on all that Lois was doing through your tweets, photos and Facebook updates (not to mention the webcam – hat tip to Brandon on the Twitter integration!). I was on the other side of the world was was able to get my Lois fix through you!

    Your – and the HMNS Marketing Team’s – hard work helped make Lois a super star!

  3. Erin, your words gave me goosebumps because I too felt the coming together of a community. It was exciting and fun. My sister and her friend drove down from Austin (after being up all day & working 2 jobs) arrived at HMNS at 3:30am and I met up with them for my 2nd Lois visit. It was the day she fully bloomed and the “funk” was fuming in all of its gloriousness. We LOVED our visit and at 5am they drove back to Austin to go to work. Previously in the week my boyfriend and I visited and after hanging out with Lois we walked in the rainforrest which is VERY romantic at night. Maybe a few special late night hours in the future?? (not so subtle hint) Thanks for the memories and the fun. I’m ellated that Lois brought the financial boom that she did to the museum. I wear my Lois pin with pride and I look forward to my next visit to the HMNS.
    Many thanks,
    Lisa

  4. Erin, Thank you to all the HMNS staff for such a uplifting and wonderful that was Lois. Got a twitter account just so I could participate. Again thanks to all the hard working men and women at HMNS

  5. I am humbled by the unexpected and generous shout-out, when Lois and the HMNS staff are the only true heroes of this saga.

    Save the rainforest!

  6. It has been a great 2 weeks watching Lois to bloom. She has created so much publicity online and TV. Somebody needs to make a movie and make Houston Proud. Zac, Red Shirt Guy, all of the tweets, media, employees and webcam has made it interested and excited. It has been great reading all the tweets that were beside the webcam on hmns site. I wasn’t able to tweet because I couldn’t get it to work right on my computer or I didn’t do something right. It has been fun and I was focused on the webcam all weekend and didn’t get much done. I became addicted but had fun reading all the tweets and blogs of Lois. I got great pics from the website because I wasn’t able to come down there to see Lois. Zac, good luck w/your future. You did great w/Lois and all you employees there. He was the star of it. Lois turned out so beautiful and I wished I could have seen her in person. She did well.

  7. It was an amazing adventure – so glad I could be a part of it! Thanks to all at HMNS for making it possible, y’all were fantastic, even at 3:00 in the morning we were greeted with smiles and great energy that added to the joy of the experience.

  8. Lois was just such a great learning opportunity and a great experience for my 7 y.o.! I had not been as excited about a natural phenomena since the last passing of Halley’s comet. My HMNS membership is expiring 7/31/10 and i was about to just let it go; not anymore! Thanks to all the dedicated and creative staff and Houstonites for making these last 2 weeks geekily fun.

  9. Thank you so very much for this opportunity to be part of a community of love. We are all so busy in our everyday lives that we do not reach out to touch very many people on the average day. This “event” has given us all a great gift…we can enjoy each others ideas and feelings and celebrate them as we celebrate a truly unusual and rare learning moment in time. As I could not watch my beloved PBR, I enjoyed this even more. I found myself waking up at night just to read tweets…a new one for me!!!

  10. I’m one of Lois’s biggest fans. I never missed a day, seeing Lois 33 times in 17 days and almost camping out at the museum from Tuesday July 20 to Friday July 23. I can’t completely explain my interest in Lois. I did graduate from MIT in chemical engineering(maybe that will tell you something0. I am fascinated by the whole idea of a plant that emits odoriferous chemicals to trick bugs into pollinating the plant, that blooms so infrequently, and that looks so beautiful. Lois was truly beautiful. I enjoyed seeing her change day by day, if ever so slowly. I was overjoyed when she finally started to open, pleased I got to sniff her, and sad when she flopped over. Thanks to all the people at HMNS that made my experience possible. I met Brad, head of Member Services, Zac the horticulturist, Nancy the director of the Butterfly Center, Ed who bought Lois as a walnut sized corm, the bride and groom who got married that Saturday in the Butterfly Center, many of the HMNS security staff, and reporters from channel 2,11,13, the AP, and the Houston Chronicle. I’ve been coming to the Butterfly center since it first opened and if anyone comes to visit me from out-of-town they get a visit to the HMNS. My 14 year old nephew was visiting from DE and he got to see Lois three times. Lois, build up your strength for the next great bloom!

  11. THANK YOU all so much for making it possible for us to fall in love with Lois from afar. I want to extend a big YOU ROCK to everyone at HMNS who made it happen! As a fellow museum staffer, I know how tough the industry feels right now and I’m so pleased that you have been energized by the outpouring of support from all over the world. Cheers to you!

  12. Erin – I think you, and all the staff at the Museum, also need to take a bow for this. It would have been all too easy to “play it safe”, yet HMNS chose to ride the “Tower of Terror”, going along for the ride. Even though they couldn’t exert total control over the situation, the museum staff reacted remarkably well IMO, making this not only an opportunity to show off an artifact, but also to educate folks on an aspect of science, and (maybe more importantly) to build a community.

    Lois was (and is) one very lucky little corm, indeed.

    ~EdT.

  13. This is a very nice blog. Thank you for including me.

    This was a very cool experience. We photojournalists are stuck behind the lens and we don’t mind that. This assignment still kept me behind my lens but I wound up being in front of someone else’s and it catapulted into all of this.

    The flower community embraced me and made me part of their family. Thank you.

    Yesterday was my first day w/o a visit to the Museum. I would stopped by even if I didn’t have a time lapse camera set up there. But I’m in Calif. now, so no can do.

    Here’s the two blogs I wrote for the chron about my coverage of Lois.

    http://blogs.chron.com/depthoffield/2010/07/see_corpse_flower_lois_live.html

    http://blogs.chron.com/depthoffield/2010/07/corpse_flower_lois_goes_viral.html

    Thanks for everyone’s support.

    Julio AKA RSG

  14. AMEN!! This says what I have felt the last week – just an all around amazing experience! Thanks to HMNS, Zac, Julio, all the Twitterers, and more for showing us a new way to use social media to learn and to bring us all together. We have been an amazing conglomerate of people with a common interest. We shared what we knew, laughed and learned. I shall miss it but am already fans of all the Facebook pages mentioned! :-D

    Let’s do it again SOON!!

  15. Yay! Yay! Thanks so much for the lovely shout-out …

    … but more importantly, thanks to you and all your colleagues at the museum for being WORLD-FREAKING-CLASS. Seriously, you guys should be riding high on your success here with Lois. You make me seriously proud to live in this great city.

    Thanks again for everything. Now go get some rest!

  16. What happened around Lois is exactly why I love living in Houston. I have given up trying to explain to the non-Houston people what that special quality is that makes this city so special but it is perfectly encapsulated in the Lois experience. Houston embraces the unusual, Houston is friendly, Houston pulls together, Houston has a unique spirit. Everyone who lives here and loves this town knows this, and we usually talk about these aspects when we are dealing with difficult things like hurricanes and floods. It was nice to have these wonderful qualities displayed over such a happy event. Cheers to Houston and cheers to HMNS, a Houston treasure.

  17. I agree wholeheartedly with all of Lois’ fans. I too, am grateful to Team Lois for making it all happen with such enthusiasm, professionalism and good humor! FunkWatch has been such an exciting educational event and I’m thankful to have experienced first-hand.

    I work at a Houston nonprofit and am reminded every day of the amazing generosity of Houstonians and the great opportunities we have in this first-class, down-home city. The HMNS is one of Houston’s brightest jewels and we are lucky to have her.

    I created a fun post about Lois including fashion ensembles for her coming out party and my own FunkWatch 2010 button. Here’s my little blog post:
    http://sillybeeschickadees.blogspot.com/2010/07/funkwatch-2010.html

    Thanks for the fun, HMNS! Can’t wait for FunkWatch Part Deux!

  18. Thank you Nancy, Zac and all of the staff at HMNS for sharing Lois with us as generously as you did. You all were professional, considerate and kind enough to put up with our wacky antics and devotion to Lois. It was a super cool experience I was excited to share with Houston, as well as my family.

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