Morty is drooping, but Fester is blooming!

Fester corpse flower at Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
If you missed Morty, you have a second chance to see a corpse flower bloom. Fester, now on display, is expected to open in two or three weeks. Photo courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Fester, which started out as the smallest of the three corpse flower corms (bulbs) that the  Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens acquired in 2014, is ready to bloom and is on display now.

This announcement comes a week after another of the corpse flowers, dubbed Morty, bloomed for the second time!

Since these plants bloom only once every six to ten years, having two bloom within such a short amount of time is unusual.

It’s not the first time that a botanical gardens has had more than one corpse flower bloom in the same season, said Erin Grajek, associate vice president of Marketing & Visitor Experience at the Botanical Gardens. One in Florida had “twins” that bloomed in the same pot within days of each other.

So while what is happening in Buffalo is not unheard of, “It’s not the norm, for sure!” Grajek said.

All three corms came from the same grower, but they were different sizes, she noted, so it would seem odd for them to be on the same schedule.

If you missed Morty while it was in bloom, this is a second chance to experience an Amorphophallus titanum,which has a huge flower that gives off the smell of rotting flesh to attract pollinators.

Usually the plant unfurls, as Morty did in 2014. When Morty bloomed a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t unfurl. By this past Friday, it was drooping and is no longer on display.

willted Morty corpse flower
This is what Morty looked like on Friday. After it bloomed, it drooped. A hole was cut into the flower to show the male and female parts. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

I’m hoping that when Fester blooms, it will be as dramatic as Morty was the first time.

It’s hard to predict when Fester will be in full bloom, but the staff’s best estimate is that it will be in two to three weeks, Grajek said.

When they were waiting a few weeks ago for Morty to bloom, the staff took its temperature, watching for it to go from about 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 or 100. As it heats up, it produces the smell of a dead body.

These plants are also interesting because the flower grows so big and so fast. What you see is just the flower. Fester can grow two to eight inches per day and can reach three to six feet tall.

When it is in full bloom, the flower and its accompanying stench last only 24-48 hours. During the short bloom, the Botanical Gardens plans to have extended hours. After that, Fenster will be on display for up to two weeks.

After it flowers, the plant wilts and the stench fades.

When they are not blooming, the plants send up enormous leaf structures to collect energy to bloom again in the future. Fester leafed for the first time at the Botanical Gardens in October 2015, though it may have leafed before it came to Buffalo. In 2015, the corms that leafed weren’t yet named, so we’re not sure if the large leaf seen here was Fester or whether the corm that was just sprouting a leaf was Fester. What you see in that photo looks like a tree, but it’s actually one leaf.

If you like unusual plants, participate in the Botanical Gardens’  Strange Likes Company campaign to help acquire strange and unique plants such as the monkey orchid, whose flower looks amazingly like the face of a monkey. See a photo here as well as some of the other plants the Botanical Gardens wants to add to its collection. Donate online, too.

Updates on Fester will be available on the Botanical Gardens’ website, Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts – @BuffaloGardens and through Morty’s Twitter account @MortyStinks. Like and follow to keep up to date with Fester’s progress. Use hashtags #CorpseFlower and #FunkyFester when posting.

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