Obsessed with @CorpzFlowrLois

Amorphophallus titanum
Image via Wikipedia

Yes, I am.

Houston’s techno-bio–geeko-twitterati — myself among them — has been glued to their computer screens even more than usual, held in thrall by Lois, the exotic and endangered tropical plant. Lois is a rare and large “Corpse Flower,” so named because of the stench of decomposing flesh that issues from the blossom. Lois is potted in the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences.  Her claim to fame is that there are so few of her species, and they bloom so seldom — only 28 times since 1939, reportedly– that Lois’s imminent flowering is an event.

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.  She is gradually turning a deep shade of bruise-tone purple, and the stink factor is apparently a big draw.  To add to the fun, Lois has her own Twitter account — the microblogging service that gives real-time updates on everything from terrorist attacks around the world to the status of your friend’s hangover.  Lois has a personality.  Apparently she is PMS-ing, and she’s got a dirty mouth.  She is also camera-shy and reluctant to go ahead and bloom with all eyes watching.  She has informed us that plants don’t really like to be talked to, thank you — and that they, or she, at least, really needs someone to bring her an espresso first thing in the morning.

The museum’s web cam has gotten so many hits that many people have been unable to load the images.  The museum stayed open until midnight last night to accommodate the curious who anticipated a late-Sunday-evening unfurling, and now they will stay open around the clock — that’s right, 24/7 — this is a museum, mind you — until Lois does her thing.

I’m several days into what has become known as “Funkwatch,” and my attention is bordering on the obsessive.  I still see clients and take care of business, but at every break I am checking the twitter feed and reading more about Lois and her kind.  This event is taking up ALL of my “spare attention:”  that is, any extra bandwidth that is not devoted to the bare minimum of daily survival. I’ll be heading back to the museum this evening for another look at Lois — after all, I’ve been talking to her all day!

Lois is providing a lot of humor, entertainment, and education in return for my attention.  That rapt attention, the ability to engage with something for a long period of time, the playfulness all create the conditions for learning, and for change and growth.  I’m not just talking about Lois putting on another four inches of height each day.  I’m talking about how learning, at its best, brings out the best in us.  Sometimes the growth process, or the blossoming, doesn’t happen on schedule, or in some other way you expected.  That can stink.  But it’s worth hanging in there.

IN a too-good-to-be-true twist, Houston’s own Miller Outdoor Theater, right down the street from HMNS, is now performing — wait for it — Little Shop of Horrors.  Gotta love how things work out.

Maybe I’ll see you at the HMNS tonight!  May we all blossom and grow, like Lois.

Follow @hmns and @CorpzFlowrLois on Twitter.

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53 thoughts on “Obsessed with @CorpzFlowrLois

  1. It must be a great year for them. Western Illinois University had two bloom in the last few months. I went to see the first with a friend. I’d never seen a picture of one–I hadn’t a clue what I would see. Oh my, what a surprise! The flower is mesmerizing. The smell–far from mesmerizing–is just as unforgettable as the flower. Nothing quite like it, that’s for sure.

    1. Mesmerizing is the word. There is something so “alien” about its appearance, on many levels! I’ve got several days invested in this by now, so will definitely make sure to get the full experience, stink and all.

    1. I think our Houston blossom will just be #29 since 1939. If you haven’t been over to FLickr.com yet, there are lots of amazing shots of Lois, the Houston Corpse Flower, as well as shots of others. Cool stuff!

    2. Wow! I understand that whether or not they will bloom is completely unpredictable. Some never bloom at all, just sending up a single stalk. It’s fascinating.

  2. Does it really smell like rotting flesh? I walk at a nearby park and frequently smell decomposition. A flower like this would be so much more interesting than the dead rabbit I’m probably inhaling.

    1. I was at the museum on Sunday and Monday evenings. Last night, Monday, I *thought* I detected the beginnings of a whiff of something. However, it may have just been the locker-room-like ambiance from all those people standing around in a small area. The flower was just starting to get a little bit ruffly, and the bottom was fuller and rounder than the previous evening. As of this morning — well, the wait continues. I am teaching a class in the area this evening, and so will be unable to resist stopping by to check on the status. Will let you know my impressions of the funky smell!

  3. Don’t know why…but I’ve always liked looking at these beauties. What a great (but brief) summer pastime.

    I, however, am perfectly content to enjoy them from afar. I already know what rotting stuff smells like….

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you!

      I think the really extraordinary thing is the online persona expressed by @CorpzFlowrLois. It is not a museum-sanctioned account — and my friend who does the “official tweets” from @hmns told me she doesn’t know who the tweeter actually is! There has been so much conversation with the #corpseflower hashtag that people are starting to engage with each other as well as with the plant and the museum. So a community has formed. And being there to smell Lois as she does her Lois thing — I think it’s not about wanting to smell it. It’s about wanting to be part of the experience and the community.

    2. Thank you so much for the comment!
      If you go to http://www.hmns.org you can see the webcam and get the visual without the scratch-n-sniff. The museum servers couldn’t keep up with the traffic, so they are now using the servers from Rice University. I think several of the local TV stations also have “corpse-cams” at the museum. Outta control!

  4. A plant that stinks of rotting flesh… yes, I can see myself getting hooked…NOT…. lol… all joking aside- it IS a beautiful plant, which I am quite content to admire from afar… ;o)

  5. Magnificent isn’t it. Bunga Bangkai. I must say whenever I’ve smelled them the odour has been more like track or jogging shoes that have been used for months and desperately need new inner soles.

    There’s a smaller variety that I’ve encountered in Bali, it packs quite a pungent odour for its size but has a rather crumbled and distorted shape, not the elegance of the Bunga Bangkai

  6. What an absolutely gorgeous bloom! My bonus son would love to see it in person. Living in Seattle, it’s a bit far to drive, especially in our traffic, but thanks to the sites you posted, we can at least see it virtually. 🙂

  7. It is super alien and I’d love to see one too… with nose plugs on though, of course. It looks like it has a large purple tongue sticking out and with you describing its personality it probably is sticking out its tongue to all of you guys watching it all the time. 😉

  8. Love the post. I’ve read about the Corpse Flower from nstperfume.com (my guilty pleasure) but never had the opportunity to view (smell) it in person.

    Sometimes I imagine Georgia O’Keefe, Frieda Kahlo and Anais Nin all played a part in the construction of this visually entrancing and olfactarily nasty plant…but that would mean art came before the object. Gorgeous, timely, erotic, compelling.

    1. You expressed something that was lurking in the background of my awareness — seeing Lois is like looking at an O’Keefe/Kahlo/Nin fusion! Unforgettable!

  9. That’s odd? I have one at my house a friend gave us years ago, it’s bloomed at least three times… maybe it’s a different subspecies but it surely does look like Lois. Maybe I’ll give a call to a gardening shop or something, see if I really am lucky enough to have an endangered plant in my backyard!!

    1. I was surprised to hear Zack, the plant guru at HMNS, say they got Lois from a specialty plant retailer in North Carolina. That little piece of info made me start to think about whether she was ordered on the internet . . . The mind boggles. So the moral of the story is: endangered in the wild, thriving in people’s backyards? 🙂

    1. She certainly looks like she could! If you follow the topic #corpseflower, or @CorpzFlowrLois, you’ll see that she is probably capable of anything. Lots of humor there.

  10. The flower alone is compelling. A museum staying open 24/7 is amazing. But after seeing the Twitter feed I’m hooked. Talk about “personality.” : ) Thanks for the pick-me-up!

  11. I thought I recognized the photo. I first learned about this magnificent flower by flipping through Curtis’ Botanical Magazine. I remember thinking, “Whoa! What a big bud!” I had no idea about its stench. I gotta admit, it looks does resemble an FX flower in a horror flick. Keep watching!

  12. yes, I have one too…the bloom is only about two feet tall, but it looks much like that one…it comes up in the spring, this year it had two blooms, and then it dies down. it doesn’t smell that bad, but it does attract little flies…which are evidently good for your garden. i think it’s cute and gross at the same time…which is a mirror of my life…so it fits! i can send pix if you want!

  13. I’ve always been pretty captivated by this flower myself — it kinda reinvents that whole “smells like flowers” idea, doesn’t it? 🙂

  14. Leave the stink aside, she is a thing of beauty. In the growing up years, we never thought that there could be a shade of green in flowers. I like both green and purple color.. 🙂
    Nice compilation.. say my “Hi” to her on your visit…

  15. Yes, from Sumatra. If I remember right, an Italian travelling through – with a green thumb, I suppose – saw the flower. He took some seeds back with him home and I think sent some to Kew Gardens in England and… Voilà! She’s migrated West ever since. It’s the dawning of Aquarius, er, Lois and her sisters!

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