Huge. Rotten. Rare. Corpse Flower, Uncle Fester, bursts forth its putrid bloom
We are thrilled to see Uncle Fester bloom and be able to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with the world, to raise awareness about the importance of plant biodiversity and help global efforts to conserve this unique and endangered species.
Cynthia Sayre, Curator of Collections
A giant stinking spectacle is now underway at Bloedel Conservatory as Vancouver’s infamous titan arum or corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum), Uncle Fester, unleashes its rancid odour on all those who dare to catch a whiff.
For only a brief window, Uncle Fester is now in full bloom and its ruffled meat-coloured spathe has unfurled to reveal a tall spadix, covered in hundreds of tiny flowers. Over the next 24 to 48 hours, the bloom will emit its powerful signature odour, described as smelling like rotting fish, sweaty socks, and hot garbage, to attract pollinators like flesh flies and carrion beetles. After just one or two days, the spathe will close and the bloom will begin to collapse into dormancy once again.
About the corpse flower
The titan arum holds the world record for the largest bloom in the form of an unbranched inflorescence or floral structure, reaching up to 12 feet tall.
This endangered species grows only in the equatorial tropical rainforests on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, where it is known as bunga bangkai which means “corpse flower.” Part of an incredibly diverse ecosystem with nearly 10,000 other plant species, the titan arum is legally protected in Indonesia and is classified as Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Fewer than 1,000 plants remain in the wild.
Though titan arums can take up to a decade between flowering events in the wild, they typically bloom every two to three years in cultivation, and up to three times in total. Uncle Fester is blooming for the second time, having displayed its first fetid flower in 2018. Now 12 years old, Uncle Fester stands a lofty 73 inches tall.
Experience the corpse flower
Bloedel Conservatory will be open from 9am to 9pm on Thursday, August 19 and Friday, August 20, to allow as many visitors as possible to experience the corpse flower opening.
Capacity is limited and tickets are only available online External website, opens in new tab for designated 20-minute time slots. Tickets are not sold on site. For those who cannot attend this year, view the live stream Video file.
Conserving this rare species
The Bloedel Conservatory adopted Uncle Fester from Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Garden in North Carolina in 2016, as part of an international effort to propagate and conserve the titan arum. Through the sharing of plants, seeds and genetic material, botanical gardens across the world are working collaboratively to help conserve rare and endangered species. 2018 marked a special year for Bloedel Conservatory as it played host to the first corpse flower ever to bloom in the province.
How can you help?
The largest threat to the titan arum is habitat loss due to deforestation and the loss of bird species, including the rhinoceros hornbill (Beceros rhinoceros), which eat and disperse the seeds. Support the conservation of Indonesian rainforests and the titan arum's habitat by always choosing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper and wood products.
Cynthia Sayre, Curator of Collections
“It is such an incredible opportunity to grow our very own titan arum in Vancouver,” said Cynthia Sayre, Curator of Collections. “We are thrilled to see Uncle Fester bloom and be able to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with the world, to raise awareness about the importance of plant biodiversity and help global efforts to conserve this unique and endangered species.”