Thursday, 28 April 2011

Why Didn't I Think Of This Before?

The final course I'm teaching to my BTEC National Diploma class is "Principles of Plant and Soil Science". The little darlings have to look at plant anatomy, physiology and industrial use, before we give them a few crappy £3.50 Homebase soil meters and send them off to the park for an hour. Needless to say, they are not quite as enthused by plant science as they might be (although one of them thought being a "plantologist" was a pretty good job).

In a discussion about pollination and scent, it occurred to me that they might appreciate looking at really stinky flowers. And then the lightbulb lit above my head.

These are teenagers - what better way to get them into plants than to tell them that such an organism exists as the Amorphophallus titanum? And to help them figure out how to translate the name. The shrieks of delight when they worked out (eventually - they didn't know what a phallus was) that some scientist had named it "giant misshapen penis" will stay with me for a very long time.

So I didn't stop there - we looked at orchids that resemble the vulva:

And then the coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica), which is about the size and shape of a human arse:

I have to say, though, having played my trump card of the "bum seed", I still need to make photosynthesis and transpiration interesting through preferably smutty means, or I'll never keep their attention until the end of June.

So there's a challenge for you - let's try and make these topics as filthy as possible to get the BTEC kids interested. Failing which, a thought experiment courtesy of one delicate young lady:

"What would happen if trees farted?"

1 comment:

  1. Enthusing students about plant science is a real problem. That's why Annals of Botany is trying to make what is seen as a dry subject much more accessible to students, by publishing content on our blog: and on Facebook: - both of which allow students to contact real plant scientists if they are interested.


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