Steve Sylvester, associate professor of molecular biosciences, says he planted a rare corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanium, AKA titan arum) to attract visitors to WSU Vancouver.

Steve Sylvester extracting seeds from titan arum corpse flower
Steve Sylvester, associate professor of molecular biosciences, extracts seeds from the rare titan arum corpse flower blooming at WSU Vancouver. (Photo Laura Dutelle)


Sylvester came to WSU Vancouver from WSU Pullman in 1996, the year the Salmon Creek campus opened. “I thought a corpse flower bloom would provide an opportunity for people to learn about us,” he says.

After 17 years of cultivation, at 8:00 p.m. on July 15, under an almost-full waxing gibbous moon, Titan VanCoug, as the plant is affectionately known, bloomed. The next day, some 12,000 people flocked to campus to get a look—and a whiff. The bloom of a corpse flower lasts just 24 to 48 hours and is infamous for its odor, comparable to that of a decomposing animal.

Sylvester was able to get pollen from a titan arum that bloomed in New York in June. In a few months, he hopes to have viable seeds he can share with other universities, conservancies, and botanical gardens.