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Rare B.C. 'corpse flower' set to unfurl its putrid beauty

A native of the Indonesian rainforest, the only amorphophallus titanum specimen in Vancouver last bloomed in 2018 at the Bloedel Conservatory. This year, the stinky flower is expected to be even bigger.
Corpse flower
The Bloedel Conservatory's "Uncle Fester" corpse flower last bloomed in 2018.

A rare though putrid flower dubbed “Uncle Fester” is set to bloom at a popular Vancouver public garden. 

Known as a “corpse flower,” the tropical amorphophallus titanum climbs up to 15 feet tall as it reaches for the sun. For much of the year, the vulnerable species produces a leafy vegetation to scratch its photosynthesis needs.

But some years, an “enormous flower spike — or spadix — will emerge,” notes a spokesperson for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation in a press release. 

In B.C., the flower is first thought to have bloomed in 2018 at the Bloedel Conservatory, and for some, it can take a decade to emerge again. 

“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 superintendent Bruce McDonald in a written statement. 

The conservatory’s specimen — considered “vulnerable” and native to Indonesia’s equatorial rainforests on the island of Sumatra — is now nine years old. 

The plant was first “discovered” by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari in 1889. But it was only in recent years, after a push to preserve the species, that public gardens successfully raised a corpse flower in cultivation, according to the Chicago Botanic Garden. 

Back in Vancouver, Uncle Fester is in the midst of a growth spurt. It’s climbed two feet in the past month, and is expected to continue to grow at a rate of three inches per day until it blooms. 

This year’s flower is expected to eclipse the nearly two-metre bloom recorded in 2018. 

When the flower will unfurl its putrid beauty is another question.

Visitors to the conservatory looking to catch a glimpse of the rancid bloom must book a time slot online at bloedelconservatory.ca