Rare corpse flower all set to kick up a stink at Vancouver’s Bloedel Conservatory

The flower wilts just one day after opening


VANCOUVER’S stinkiest attraction is taking root for the summer, as Uncle Fester returns to Bloedel Conservatory. This year, suspense is building as people wait to see when it will unleash its infamous scent and if its bloom will surpass the huge, putrid flower that drew large crowds in 2018.

Amorphophallus titanum — commonly known as titan arum or corpse flower — is unpredictable and very rare. Most years, the tropical plant produces only a leaf, reaching up to 15 feet, to absorb energy from the sun.

But some years, an enormous flower spike – or spadix – will emerge, wrapped in a frilly, modified leaf called a spathe. The spathe unfolds, exposing small flowers that bloom in rings around its base that release scent molecules to signal their readiness for fertilization.

A powerful stench, similar to rancid or rotten meat, will emit from the open spathe in order to attract pollinator insects like carrion beetles and flesh flies that feed on dead animals. The flower wilts just one day after opening, before descending into dormancy again.

Following its first bloom, some plants can take up to a decade to flower again, though others may bloom every two to three years. 2018 marked a special year for Bloedel Conservatory as it played host to the first corpse flower ever to bloom in the province.

“We are so excited to bring Uncle Fester back to Bloedel Conservatory, and can’t wait to have the public join us in experiencing the pungent scent explosion that, once smelled, is hard to forget,” said Bruce McDonald, Superintendent at Bloedel Conservatory. “Bets are on as to when exactly the flower will open, but based on its already-larger corm, we think this year’s bloom is going to be bigger and stinkier than ever before.”

The public are invited to visit Bloedel Conservatory at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park to watch Uncle Fester grow, and make their own prediction as to when it will unfurl its rancid bloom. Capacity is limited and tickets are only available online for designated time slots at bloedelconservatory.ca. Tickets will not be sold on site.

Bloedel’s specimen is now nine years old and is in a current growth spurt, having climbed to over two feet in just the last month. Over the next two to three weeks, the growth rate will increase to a pace of three inches per day with the size of this year’s corm signalling a bloom that will eclipse the 77 inches of the previous flower. Time lapse footage of the plant growing its distinctive large leaf in 2019 can be viewed here.

Titan arums are native to the equatorial rainforests of Sumatra in Indonesia and are classified as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened plants. Most plants take seven to ten years to store enough energy to bloom for the first time. Uncle Fester, named by the public as part of a city-wide poll, bloomed for the first time in July 2018 at approximately six years old.

Vancouver joined a handful of North American cities to possess a corpse flower when the Vancouver Park Board acquired its own in 2016 from a North Carolina nursery.