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‘A giant stinking spectacle’: rare corpse flower now blooming in Vancouver

Over the next 24-48 hours, the bloom will emit its powerful signature odour
Uncle Fester in bloom
The giant stinking spectacle is now underway at Bloedel Conservatory as Vancouver’s infamous titan arum or corpse flower.

Now is your chance to smell exactly how Vancouver’s resident corpse flower got its name.

Housed at the Bloedel Conservatory, the stinker is now nine years old and recently went through a growth spurt, having climbed to over two feet in just the last month. Nicknamed Uncle Fester, the flower is also known as titan arum or Amorphophallus titanium, so named for the eye-watering stench it emits when it blooms. Those fortunate enough to catch a whiff describe the scent as a mix of rotting fish, sweaty socks and hot garbage, all to attract pollinators like flesh flies and carrion beetles. 

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, the conservatory announced in a recent press release. Over the next 24-48 hours you too can bear witness to the phenomenon.

For those who wish to subject themselves to the smells emanating from the flower, the conservatory will be open from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. on Thursday, August 19 and Friday, August 20, to allow as many visitors as possible to experience the corpse flower opening.

Capacity is limited though and tickets are only available online for designated 20-minute time slots through the Bloedel Conservatory’s website. 

If you would prefer to watch the spectacle rather than smell it, you can watch a 24/7 live stream also provided by the conservatory. 

A 'once-in-a-lifetime experience'

An endangered species, the corpse flower only grows in the equatorial tropical rainforests on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. 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 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.

“It is such an incredible opportunity to grow our very own titan arum in Vancouver,” said Cynthia Sayre, the conservatory’s collections curator. “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.”

With files from Elana Shepert