Rare, really smelly Sumatran “Corpse Flower” to bloom at Houston museum

The botanical world is a fascinating thing, but fans of “Little Shop of Horrors” will be especially excited about the eminent blooming of the endangered Amorphophallus titanum, at the Cockrell Butterfly Center at Houston’s Museum of Natural Science. Nicknamed the “Corpse Flower” for the unholy stench it emits in bloom, the phallic-looking plant is one of the largest, rarest flowers in the world. Native to parts of Indonesia (I’ve seen Raffelsia, a similar flower from a different family, on a trek in Thailand’s stunning Khao Sok National Park) these suckers can reach up to 10 feet in height, with a diameter of up to six feet. Early explorers in Sumatra actually believed the flower was a man-eating plant.

“Lois,” Cockrell’s resident Corpse Flower, is about to bloom for the first time, and visitors can check it out for themselves in person, or via webcam. Lois even has her own blog, and Twitter account (not affiliated with the museum). Says Dr. Nancy Greig, director of the Center, “The Corpse Flower is unique because it’s totally unpredictable. No one really knows what triggers a given plant to flower, and [it may] flower once in its lifetime. We’ve had ours for six years and this is the first time it has bloomed-we’re very lucky. It may be the largest, smelliest flower in the world, but its beauty is unparalleled.” Lois is one of perhaps only 30 cultivated Corpse Flowers to ever bloom in the U.S..

If you want to see (and smell) Lois for yourself, she’s due to flower at any second; the museum is open 24 hours until she does. Check her blog for updates.

[Photo credit: Flickr user lornagrl]