Name Our New Corpse Flower!

Lois Update! [Corpse Flower]
Hi, Lois!

You remember Lois the Corpse Flower, right? Of course you do. Because no one could forget our favorite stinky plant!

As it turns out, the fine folks at CultureMap – the home of @CorpzFlowrLois tweeter @stevenjthomsonreceived a Corpse Flower as a gift after Lois’ twitter identity was revealed.

Now, as Zac, our horticulturist, will tell you – corpse flowers are tricky beasts. They are rare outside their native Sumatra for a reason. They require constant, skilled care. And, of course, a habitat capable of maintaining jungle-like humidity levels.

As much as the CultureMappers loved their new flower – their lovely offices do not yet boast a greenhouse. So, they donated it to the museum, making theirs a much happier plant – and giving Lois a new roommate.

It’s going to take a lot – of time, and sass – for this little-sister leaf to live up to Leave-Em-Wanting-More Lois.

And there’s just no way for that to happen as long as our newest corpse flower remains nameless.

Lois, as you may know, is named after the mother of Eddie Holik – the former director of the Butterfly Center who acquired her 7 years ago.

We thought we’d give you the honor this time.

Help Us Name Our New Corpse Flower!

Here’s how:

Leave a comment on this post with your suggested name. You have until July 15 to get your entries in, and you can post as many as you can think of – just don’t forget to fill in the “email” field, or we’ll have no way to contact you if you win.

On July 18, we’ll post the finalists here on the blog. Be sure to come back and vote for your favorite!

July 25 – the first anniversary of Lois’ bloomday – we’ll announce the winning name for our new corpse flower!

What’s In It For You?

Bragging rights! And, a private tour of the HMNS Greenhouses (not generally open to the public) with Soni and Zac, our horticulturists + a museum membership (which has some pretty cool benefits).

Ok, ready? Go!

new guy1
I need a name!

Corpse Flower Lois Update – The Photosynthetic Phase

A lot has happened since we last updated everyone on Corpse Flower Lois, Houston’s beloved Amorphophallus titanum.

Corpse Flower Lois - Repotted!
Repotting Lois

Last time most of you saw her (August 19, 2010) she was being weighed, inspected, re-potted and finally left to go through her dormancy in peace in our greenhouses. We anticipated the dormancy to last about three months before she would put up a new leaf and go into a photosynthetic phase, and in a move very uncharacteristic of our smelly diva, she came out of dormancy right on cue.

In mid November 2010, almost exactly three months after she shed her nearly six foot inflorescence, a new bud began to grow very rapidly from the underground tuber. Just like in the reproductive phase, as the leaf begins to form it is covered by two very large bracts to protect the immature new growth. By the November 16 the bud was already 34” tall and growing over an inch a day. On the 29 of that month the bracts completely fell back to reveal a single 58.5” leaf.

The picture below shows Lois as she looks now, over the past five months the leaf has continued to grow and reached a maximum height of 68”.

Lois Update! [Corpse Flower]
Lois
View more photos here

The purpose of this massive leaf is to harness as much energy as possible from the sun during this photosynthetic period and restore that energy as mass in the underground tuber. (Which decreased in size by about 25% after putting up the famous 2010 inflorescence.)

We expect her photosynthetic phase is nearing its end and we will begin to see the massive leaf decline in the months to come. After the decline we expect another three month dormancy period, followed by another photosynthetic period. This cycle will continue until the tuber regains enough mass to support another stinky inflorescence.

Until then we will try to keep you up to date with all of Lois’ progress, and the progress of our other adolescent Amorphophallus titanum that has yet to be named.

Meet our Blushing Beauties!

This year in the Cockrell Butterfly Center, we were taken on quite a roller coaster ride with Lois the Corpse Flower! I don’t think any of us will ever forget about that! People filled the Grand Hallway and waited in line to see the most talked about flower Houston has ever seen.

In the midst of everything, we quietly received a very special gift, which may have been overlooked. Over Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to New Orleans and was able to visit the Audubon Insectarium, which was amazing! I was very jealous of their live animal collection and in particular, their pink katydids. They had quite a few of them, but despite that, my attempts to organize some kind of trade with them to get some pink katydids here in Houston were futile.

It wasn’t long after I got back that I received a call from a family in Dayton who said that they had found a pink katydid! They were so kind to drive to HMNS and deliver it. When I saw it I was overjoyed, it was the exact same species they had in New Orleans and just as pretty and pink as any of theirs! He was a boy and we named him Don Johnson (One of my friends said his color reminded her of Miami Vice).

So, when it rains it pours; a few weeks later I got another phone call about a pink katydid, a female. Don Johnson had a girlfriend and this would hopefully lead to little pink baby katydids! I got yet another phone call from a gentleman who had found a golden katydid and an orange one before that. The orange one got away, but he brought me the golden one. So at this time I had a veritable cornucopia of colorful katydids!

What did Katy do?
Katydid in the wild
Creative Commons License photo credit: frankcheez

The pink coloration is unusual, but not quite as rare as you might think! The color comes from a genetic defect, similar to albinism, called erythrism. Some animals, such as flamingoes, become pink because of what they eat, but since katydids eat nothing but green plants with only the occasional flower, it is due to a lack or abundance of certain pigments in their bodies. Not many people actually understand the reason for this. In tropical places, it may help the katydids to camouflage themselves among pink or red flowers and plants. Here in the United States, however, it’s not much of an advantage. The only katydid native to the United States known to have this genetic defect is the oblong-winged katydid, Amblycorypha oblongifolia. The most common form of this katydid is green, less common is the pink or golden form, and the rarest is the orange form. I wish I could have gotten my hands on the orange one!

Sadly, Don Johnson passed away at the end of July, followed by Goldie, but my pink female was alive up until a couple of weeks ago, continuing to lay eggs in her enclosure. The eggs have started to hatch and we’ll soon have baby pinkies everywhere! They are fat and round with very long back legs, and their color is amazing! Don Johnson and Pinkie’s oldest son is up there on display now, soon to be joined by his brother’s and sisters.

If you haven’t had the privilege of seeing one of these hot pink katydids, stop by and take a look, they’re sure to steal your heart!

What’s Blooming Now in the Butterfly Center?

Lois’ flower has died back, but the Cockrell Butterfly Center still has many amazing flowers blooming right now!

Although not all as rare as the corpse flower, the rainforest in the butterfly center is made up of hundreds of hard-to-find tropical plant species, most of which (but not all) come from Central and South America. We have many different varieties of orchids and bromeliads that bloom at different times of the year, so there is always something new to see at the Cockrell Butterfly Center!

What’s Blooming Now?

Bromeliad – Billbergia nutans
Bromeliads are a very diverse family of plants. We currently have nine different genera, and many different species, of bromeliads growing in the butterfly center. Most of them are epiphytes but we do have a few terrestrial genera including, everyone’s favorite, Ananus comosum, aka pineapple.

Bromeliad - Billbergia nutans [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Billbergia nutans

Orchids
The Orchid family is the second largest family of flowering plants, consisting of around 25,000 species. Different orchids bloom at different time through out the year, so no matter what season you are sure to see at least a couple species of orchids in bloom at the Cockrell Butterfly Center. Also, keep an eye out for our vanilla orchid, not in bloom right now, but still a fascinating vine.

Cattleya [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Cattleya
Cymbidium [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Cymbidium
Oncidium [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Oncidium
Phalaenopsis [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Phalaenopsis

Ginger
The butterfly center has many different species of ginger, most of which stay in bloom all year round. However, the Torch Ginger, Etlingera elatior, only occasionally flowers, and right now it is putting up three flower spikes, the tallest is over SIX FEET tall.

Torch Ginger Flower [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Etlingera elatior

Other Amazing Flowers

Medinilla
Medinilla is an epiphyte, meaning it attaches itself to trees or branches in the wild. From afar the flowers look like clusters of tiny pink grapes.

Medinilla [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Medinilla
Medinilla [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Medinilla

Nepenthes
Although not a flower, Nepenthes or Pitcher Plants are definitely a sight to behold. We currently have four species of pitcher plants, each with a slightly different color, size, and shape.

Nepenthes are carnivorous plants that eat mostly small insects such as ants and flies. For more information about pitcher plants refer to my previous blog: Beautiful, but Dangerous: the Fascinating Pitcher Plant.

Nepenthes [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Nepenthes

Warszewiczia coccinea
And we can’t forget about the butterflies favorite tree, Warszewiczia coccinea or Pride of Trinidad. This tree remains in bloom almost all year at the butterfly center, but it is putting on a fresh set of flowers right now, meaning the color is at its most vibrant. This tree is the butterflies’ favorite because each inflorescence actually contains hundreds of small yellow flower, each containing nectar for them.

Warszewiczia coccinea [Cockrell Butterfly Center]
Warszewiczia coccinea

And the list goes on! These are just a few of the amazing plants we have blooming in the Cockrell Butterfly Center right now. So come on down to HMNS and get a taste of a South American rainforest here in your own back yard.

Interested in learning more about plants? Read more of Zac’s posts and make sure to check out our live webcam feed tomorrow as Zac replants Lois, the famous corpse flower.