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Giant Smelly Plant Attracts Thousands


  • Science
    --Life Sciences
  • Social Studies
    --Current Events


Grades 2-up

News Content

A giant, smelly “corpse plant” recently bloomed in Washington, D.C.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below.

  • All flowers have sweet smells.
  • The flower of the corpse plant blooms each fall.
  • The corpse plant is native to rainforests of Africa.
  • The flower of the corpse plant attracts insects.

News Words

Introduce these words from the News Word box on the students' printable page:

  • botanical (buh-TAN-ih-kuhl) garden -- a place for the study and exhibition of plants
  • corpse -- a dead body. A raccoon's corpse was spotted by the side of the road.
  • emit -- to release or give off; for example, to give off light or an odor
  • Indonesia -- an island country located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans comprising lands on all or part of Borneo, Java, New Guinea, Sumatra, and other islands (locate Indonesia on a world map)
  • pollen -- powdery grains of a plant required for the plant to reproduce

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story Giant Smelly Plant Attracts Thousands.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

* Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

* Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.
  • The corpse plant is native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra. Sumatra, the sixth largest island of the world, is the largest part of Indonesia.
  • Carrion beetles and other pollinators are attracted to the smell of the corpse plant. The beetles often lay their eggs in rotting animals, so this plant is a good substitute.
  • The scientific name for the corpse plant, also called titan arum, is Amorphophallus titanium.
  • Titan arum (TY-tuhn AHR-uhm) invests a lot of energy during blooming to heat up the sulfur-based compound in its stalk. Because it uses up so much energy to bloom, it only does so every four to 10 years.
  • The corpse plant is related to some familiar house plants. It is a member of the same plant family as dieffenbachia, philodendrons, and anthuriums.

Comprehension Check

Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

  • All flowers have sweet smells. (false, some plants -- including the corpse plant -- emit pretty horrid odors)
  • The flower of the corpse plant blooms each fall. (false, it usually only blooms every 5 to ten years, sometimes even less frequently)
  • The corpse plant is native to rainforests of Africa. (false, it is native to the rainforests of Indonesia)
  • The flower of the corpse plant attracts insects. (true)

Recalling Detail
You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

  • What is the real name of the plant nicknamed the corpse plant? (titan arum)
  • Why is titan arum called the "corpse plant"? (because it smells like a rotting animal or rotting garbage)
  • Where in the U.S. did a corpse plant recently bloom? (Washington, D.C.)
  • For how long did the plant blossom last? (two days)
  • What shape is the flower of the corpse plant? (it is cone-shaped)
  • How tall can a corpse plant grow? (in its native habitat, a corpse plant might grow to be 12 feet tall)
  • In what year did scientists discover the corpse plant? (1878)

Think About the News
Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students' news page. You might have students work in pairs, then fours, to create a list of horrible smelling things. Then bring the groups together to create a class list.

Follow-Up Activities

Language arts -- adjectives. Have students create a list of things that smell. Then invite them to come up with words that describe the smells of those things. Point out that the describing words are called adjectives.

Science -- the sense of smell. Try the First You Smell It, Now You Don't science experiment. In that experiment you will learn how your sense of smell adapts to your surroundings. Do you think your sense of smell would become desensitized to the smell of a pile of garbage or to the corpse plant in the same way that it can become desensitized to the smell of cinnamon? After doing the experiment, share with students some fun facts about smell from The Yuckiest Site on the Internet or from

Language arts -- poetry. Have students use their senses to write a poem about winter or Christmas or another seasonal topic. Their poems should follow the form of this five-sense poem about spring:

[Color] Spring is green with bright yellow buds,
[Sight] New shoots emerge from the dark brown earth,
[Smell] The scent of rain mixes with blossoms in the air,
[Hearing] Birds chirp with newfound vibrato in the trees,
[Taste] Succulent strawberries ripen in the sun,
[Emotion] All is fresh, warm, and beautiful in the world.
Source: Ten Activities for Teaching the Five Senses

Geography. Challenge students to use a world map or MSN Encarta's zoomable map to identify whether each of the ten statements below tells something true or false about the location of Indonesia. Ask only those questions that are grade-appropriate.

  • Indonesia is south of Australia. (false, it is north of Australia)
  • Indonesia borders the Indian Ocean. (true)
  • Indonesia is south of China. (true)
  • Parts of Indonesia lie along the equator. (true)
  • Indonesia is west of Africa. (false, Indonesia is east of Africa)
  • Indonesia is southwest of India. (false, it is southeast of India)
  • Parts of Indonesia are found at 110 degrees West longitude. (false, parts of Indonesia are found at 110 degrees East longitude)
  • Indonesia is in the Eastern Hemisphere. (true)
  • Parts of Indonesia are in the Southern Hemisphere. (true)
  • Indonesia is closer to Antarctica than to the Arctic. (since Indonesia lies along the equator it is nearly equally close to both)


Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

NS.K-4.3 Life Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.3 Life Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.3 Life Science

NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms

See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
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