July 22: Jessica Zabala, left, and her fiance Jonathan Smith pin buttons on as they stand near "Lois", a rare "corpse" flower blooming at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The couple is set to be married Saturday at the museum and hope the smell from the plant will not be too strong.AP Photo/David J. Phillip
HOUSTON -- The flower girl at Jessica Zabala's wedding is purple, six-feet-tall, uninvited and smells like dead bodies.
She is Lois, a rare "corpse flower," deemed the world's stinkiest bud.
Lois is unexpectedly blooming in the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in the room right next to where Zabala is marrying Jonathan Smith on Saturday.
"I don't need a florist anymore," Zabala laughs. "I've got Lois."
The flower is an Amorphophallus titanum, which has only ever bloomed 29 times in the United States. It's happened twice in Texas, but never before at the museum's Cockrell Butterfly Center, which hosts about 50 weddings a year.
"I did not know that Lois was quietly sprouting in the greenhouse across the street," Zabala said, donning an "I Love Lois" button given to her by the museum.
Deforestation has left the flower endangered in its native tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, said Nancy Greig, the butterfly center's director. Six years ago, the center paid $75 for a "little walnut-sized tuber" from a Raleigh, N.C., nursery that specializes in exotic plants.
The flower's dead-body smell attracts the flies and beetles it needs to pollinate. Many only bloom once. It can only blossom after it is seven years old and weighs 30 pounds, exactly the size of Houston's plant.
Lois was about two-thirds of the way to full bloom by Thursday and between 3,000 and 4,000 people were visiting daily. She will only stay open about two days, and the smell generally dissipates within 12 hours, Greig said.
Museum experts initially thought she would bloom two weeks ago and Greig was certain the stench would overtake the museum by Thursday.
"But she has not turned on the funk yet," Greig said.
So Zabala and Smith remain uncertain. Will their wedding stink?
Lois will decide.