“The Story of Lois, the Corpse Flower”


Ever wonder why the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science chose the name “Lois” for their amazing Corpse Flower that bloomed in 2010?  We thought you might like to hear the inside scoop.


Eddie Holik, owner of Florascapes, was Head Horticulturist of the Butterfly Center for many years, and served as its Director from 2005-2008.   His landscaping experience became more and more important to him, so
he stepped away from the director position and in 2010, he decided to retire from the Cockrell Butterfly Center completely to focus on his landscape business. 


 As an avid plant enthusiast, Eddie is always looking out for the unusual.  In 2003 he noticed that an exotic plant supply catalog had tubers of Amorphophallus titanum for sale.  This incredible plant, known as a giant arum or more descriptively, Corpse Flower, is infamous among botanists for its size, its stench, and its difficulty of cultivation.  Eddie and Nancy Greig, who heads up the Butterfly Center and was director at the time, had discussed the marketing potential of this plant and fantasized about having one for the museum, so Eddie purchased a tuber.  It was very small, about the size of a walnut.  Ory Roberts, the Center’s greenhouse manager, carefully nursed the plant through its yearly cycle of leaf and dormant tuber for the next seven years.  It grew bigger and bigger every year, but did not produce an inflorescence. Last year, however, the Center’s horticulturists realized something different was happening:  the plant was about to bloom!


The Butterfly Center contacted Eddie, knowing he would be excited about the plant he had purchased so long ago.  Eddie asked if he could name the plant, as he wanted to honor his mother.  Lois Holik was an enthusiastic gardener and had worked as a florist at Cornelius Florist Shop for 25 years.  Eddie grew up surrounded by his mother’s interest and love for plants; she was his horticultural muse.  The museum agreed that Lois was a wonderful name for the plant.


And the rest, as they say, is history.  The museum put Lois on display and thousands of people came to see her.  Many more followed her online through the museum’s blog and webcam.  In fact, in Houston the name “Lois” will resonate with plant lovers for a long time.


The photo shows Eddie’s son Benton wearing a gas mask as he stands next to Lois while her flower was opening.  The name “Corpse Flower” arises from the extremely pungent odor of the plant’s inflorescence, which has been likened to the smell of a rotting corpse.


Some people may think it is strange or disrespectful to name such a stinky plant after Eddie’s mother.  Eddie is sure, however, that Lois herself would be extremely pleased and proud!