Watch live: Corpse flower drama doesn’t stink: Houston museum keeps city on edge with flower power

Meg, the corpse flower, started her bloom early Wednesday.

Meg, the corpse flower, as seen prior to its bloom (Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Museum of Natural Science)

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is awaiting the full bloom of its latest corpse flower fondly named Meg, after the museum’s current exhibit featuring the prehistoric megalodon shark.

Now the museum has shared a livestream of the flower.

On social media, the museum has provided periodic updates on the bloom, known for its stink that has a decidedly grave-heavy stink.

The museum is anticipating the massive, 38-inch tall plant will fully bloom later Wednesday. It started to bloom earlier in the day. If you watch at the link above, you can rewind the live video and watch the bloom in action. The bloom will only last about 36 hours.

“This is not an exact science and there is a SLIGHT chance she could bloom tomorrow or more likely wait a few extra days,” Lauren Davidson, Cockrell Butterfly Center Manager, said on social media Sunday. “This diva sure knows how to build some suspense. We will continue to share the news as it comes.”

Meg is an Amorphophallus titanum, also called the Titan Arum but more commonly known as the corpse flower. The museum has experienced corpse blooms before, with its most famous corpse flower of the same species called Lois. About 68,000 people visited the museum around the clock for weeks leading up to Lois’ bloom in 2010. She grew about four inches a day to a height of 69 inches.

“Meg is quite young and this is her first bloom,” a blog about the bloom notes. “Every other year she has gone through a leaf stage storing energy in preparation of this event. Rather than a single flower, corpse flowers are actually inflorescence (many flowers). This inflorescence is arranged as a spike known as a spadix. We started measuring Meg when we first noticed that the new growth was indeed a bloom. She has steadily been growing about two inches in height and one inch in circumference every day! We are also recording the temperature of the spadix. There are some indicators to look out for when the bloom will be ready to open - the three bracts at the base of the plant will wither and fall off, the rapid growth will slow down, and the temperature of the spadix will increase. Two or three days after this happens, the bloom should fully open and the whole butterfly center will smell like a dead animal.

“In comparison to our original corpse flower, Lois, Meg has a purple spadix while Lois had a yellow one. We also think Meg might be smaller than Lois, but that remains to be seen! In either case, Meg will be a show-stopper for sure when she finally decides to open up.”

HMNS explained in the blog that amorphophallus titanum is native to the western equatorial rainforests of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. They tend to grow in limestone hills where they have adapted to thrive in warm, humid, rocky conditions. In the wild, mature corpse flower plants will only bloom about every three years. Because of this, the flowers will not always be in close proximity to each other at the right time for pollination. When in full bloom, the spadix will heat up to disperse its stench for miles.

The spadix contains both male and female flowers and due to its stench is mostly pollinated by carrion beetles and flesh flies. The female flowers mature first and are located towards the bottom of the spadix. When the pollinators visit, they are actually looking for a meaty treat to lay their eggs in. When they arrive they deposit pollen on the stigmas of the female flowers. By the time they are ready to fly away the male flowers will release their pollen and the pollinators will carry it to the next flower. The corpse flower will start to collapse about 36 hours after opening and if pollinated will produce bright red fruits along the bottom of the spadix.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.