, Port Arthur, Texas

June 24, 2013

Hundreds flock to see Lenore the Corpse Flower

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

ORANGE — There was a funeral procession of sorts inside a greenhouse at Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center on Monday.

Visitors passed through as if paying respects to a dearly departed loved one but instead of tears and mourning there was excitement, photo ops and a nasty smell.

Lenore the Corpse Flower — the center of all the attention — may smell like death but the plant is very much alive and well.

Hundreds of people flocked to Shangri La to see Lenore who was named by staff in honor of The Raven penned by Edgar Allen Poe.

Mary Johnson was one of a group of women with Orange County Auditors that wanted to see the rare flower in bloom.

“We came by for lunch and to see Lenore,” Johnson said adding this was one of the few outings the women have during the year. When asked about the smell, she smiled and added “it’s a little potent when you get close.”

Dorothy Ricks called the flower “amazing.”

“I wish I had got here yesterday (Sunday) and seen it in full bloom,” Ricks said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The Corpse Flower is a rare bloomer so when Shangri La staff noticed some changes they grew excited.

“The plant was at the production greenhouse when we realized it had flowered so we moved it here,” Jennifer Buckner, horticulturist, said.

Lenore began as a nine pound tuber, or bulb, that purchased from Tindara Orchidds in September 2011 and grown in potting soil that was very well drained. Since the Corpse Flower is a tropical plant, the environment had to be warm.

Buckner, along with Shangri La Botanical Gardens Managing Director Rick Lewandowski assisted the curious visitors with facts about the plant and even snapped photos for them.

The giant flower features an outer purple vase-like sheath called the spathe that protects the inner tube-like structure called the spadix. The meat-like color attracts pollinators as does the smell of rotting flesh.

The gardens are usually closed Sundays and Mondays opened their gates for the special, rare event. Lenore’s bloom was beginning to close by mid-day Monday. The flower may not bloom again for another three to seven years.

Lewandowski said about 700 people visited the grounds to see Lenore on Sunday. Three hundred people flocked to the gardens by 11 a.m. Monday for the rare event.

Shangri La Botanical Gardens is located at 2111 W. Park Ave., in Orange. Check the web page for other information about the Corpse Flower as well as hours of operation and admission fees. Shangri La is a program of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation.