Flora of Indonesia

Stinky plants and animals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 November, 2008, 12:00am

Corpse Flowers

Choose the correct alternative:

We keep flowers in the house for their lovely sent/scent. But there are flowers that smell really bad.

Some flowers smell like rotting meat. These flowers are nicknamed corpse flowers. They are also called carrion (pronounced carry-on) flowers because carrion is a word for rotting meat.

Scientists say the stink of corpse flowers helps the plants to bread/breed.

The terrible smell attracts bees and other insects. They visit the corpse flowers, stand on the flower petals, and drink the sweet hectare/nectar the flower makes. While the insects are drinking, pollen from the flower sticks to their legs.

When the insects move on and visit other flowers, they spread the pollen. This helps the plants to reproduce.

Without the terrible smell, corpse flowers wouldn't be able to survive.

Smelly Jungle Flower

The titum arum (pronounced TIE-tum EH-rum) grows in the jungles of Sumatra and Borneo. It has one big leaf that grows 6 metres tall and 5m across. The plant's flowers are very small. But they grow in a cluster that can be up to 3m tall.

The biggest titum arums today can be found in botanical gardens in Germany. A plant in Bonn has a flower cluster that is 2.74m tall. There's an even bigger one in Stuttgart - it is 2.94m tall.

The reddish-brown titum arum flowers are so unusual that people will travel long distances to see one. But most gardeners don't want to have one about because of their terrible smell.

True or false?

1. The titum arum grows in Hong Kong forests.

2. The titum arum has lots of big leaves.

3. The titum arum has small reddish-brown flowers.

Smelly Fungi

Find antonyms, words that mean the opposite:

unpopular, poor, expensive

It's not just flowers that use stinky smells to attract insects. A group of mushrooms called stinkhorns use the same system.

Stinkhorns that grow in bamboo forests in southern China are nicknamed bamboo fungus. The Chinese name for bamboo fungus is zhu sheng. These mushrooms may smell funny but they are a very popular food in Yunnan.

Until recently bamboo fungus only grew in the wild. Collectors travelled to the forests in Mexico, South America, Malaysia, Japan and southern China to find these rare fungi. Because they were so hard to find, only the very rich could afford to eat them. But in 1979 farmers figured out how to grow these mushrooms commercially. Today bamboo fungus is cheap and easily available. This means everyone can eat them. Have you eaten any stinkhorns recently?

Stinky Life in Hong Kong

Two stinkhorns that grow in Hong Kong's forests are the Long Net Stinkhorn and the Yellow Veiled Lady Stinkhorn. They give a horrible smell.

You can tell these mushrooms apart by their colour. Both have a skirt-like net that grows from the top of the mushroom to the ground. The Long Net Stinkhorn has a white net. The Veiled Lady has a bright orange net.

When you're sniffing about the forest, also keep an eye out for civets. Masked palm civets, small Indian civets, and large Indian civets live all over the territory.

These cat-like mammals have special glands that make a strong-smelling liquid. When civets are attacked, they can spray their enemies with this stinky stuff.

In the past, perfume companies killed civets and used their scent in perfume products. Today civets are protected in Hong Kong. So if you see one, take a picture and leave it alone!

World's Biggest Stinky Flower

Find words that mean:

look, set up, travel around

If you walk through the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra, watch out for the world's largest flower.

The Rafflesia Arnoldi (pronounced rah-full-LAY-see-yah ar-NOL-dee) flower has five huge petals. Each petal is a metre across. The whole flower can weigh 11 kilograms.

The flower isn't just big; it's also very smelly. You will smell it before you see it!

The Rafflesia Arnoldi is named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the man who founded the British colony of Singapore in 1819.

Raffles worked for the government as an administrator. But his hobby was to explore nature. Raffles went on lots of nature walks, drawing all the flowers and animals he spotted in the jungle.

Raffles first saw this giant flower while travelling with his friend Dr Joseph Arnold in May 1818. Because they were the first to tell western scientists about this flower, it is named after both of them.

Rafflesia Arnoldi only grow deep in the jungle, so it's hard to see one. If you want to see one and can't visit the jungles they grow in, look for pictures on the internet.

fab fact!

In the past, animals were killed for their scent glands. Today perfumes and soaps are made with artificial scents that smell just as good

fab fact!

When skunks are attacked, they spray their enemies with a strong liquid that smells like rotten eggs. The smell is so bad, and so hard to wash off, that even bears run away from skunks


Stink bugs that live in fields and forests are very small but they use the same defence as skunks. If you pick up one of these colourful beetles it will take lots of soap to get rid of the smell

now do this

Answer the following questions. To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.

1. Corpse flowers are also called:

a. Carrion flowers

b. Carpet flowers

c. Rotting flowers

2. The Rafflesia Arnoldi is:

a. the world's biggest flower

b. the world's rarest flower

c. Asia's smallest flower

3. The titum arum grows wild in:

a. South American forests

b. Asian jungles

c. South African jungles

4. Stinkhorns are a type of:

a. flower

b. plant

c. fungus

5. Stink bugs are:

a. insects

b. mammals

c. birds

6. Which can be found in Hong Kong forests?

a. polecats

c. skunks

c. civets


Correct alternative: scent, breed, nectar

Synonyms: watch, found, explore

True or False: F, F, T

Antonyms: popular, rich, cheap

Quiz: 1. a, 2. a, 3. b, 4. c, 5. a, 6. c