A Familiar Face Behind The Flower

Who knew that a stinky flower with a creepy name could generate so much attention?

SHSU horticulture alumnus Zac Stayton (BS ’07) did. But even he was caught by surprise at how much attention the plant would get.

As a fulltime horticulturist with the Houston Museum of Natural Science since January, Stayton has been on the look out for a flower on the famous plant, affectionately called “Lois,” for some time.

“We thought that she would bloom this year and not just go through a vegetative cycle,” he said.

On July 1, the caretakers of the Amorphophallus titanium, an endangered plant native to Sumatra, saw the first evidence of a flower.

“We began spreading the word,” Stayton said. “I told my friends and associates in the horticulture community, and the museum began to let people know. We knew that it was a big deal, but we didn’t know it would be this big.”

And how big has it been?

During July, the museum has seen nearly a 400 percent increase in attendance, and its Web cam has received a record number of viewers.

But the show won’t last much longer. On Friday (July 23), Stayton reported that Lois was in full bloom now. The bloom will probably last two or three days, and the horrendous smell that gives the flower its not-so-flattering nickname will be gone in eight to 12 hours.

Stayton is not making any guarantees, though.

“She has been so unpredictable, I’m not sure what the timeline will be,” he said.

Stayton’s career began after he graduated from SHSU as a tropical plant buyer for a nursery in Houston. The plants he bought were for distribution to the Houston Zoo and the butterfly center where he now works.

After a year in that job, he relocated to Hawaii and worked as a bromeliad grower for the Hawaiian Sunshine Nursery in Waimanalo.

“It was a great experience in Hawaii, but it was very expensive to live there, and I missed my friends and family in Texas,” he said.

Some of the contacts he had made while working in Houston let him know about a job opening as a horticulturist with the museum, and the rest is history.

Although Stayton has gotten almost as much attention as Lois has this week, he realizes that things will be business as usual soon.

“I’ll go back to caring for the plants in the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the museum, and preparing for several events we will have coming up in the next year,” he said.

“It will certainly be quieter around here,” he said.

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