Tacca integrifolia (white bat plant) has strange, almost bizarre flowers resembling a bat’s black face with white ears and long whiskers. It is found naturally in south-east Asia and from eastern India to southern China. It belongs to the yam family, Dioscoraceae. It is an upright leafy plant with grey-green, narrow leaves growing from an underground fleshy root.
The flowers are borne in flower heads of up to thirty blooms. These form the bat’s face. They range in colour from purple-red to brown. The flowers are topped by white floral leaves called bracts, which resemble bat’s ears. Filaments up to 20cm long or more hang from the flowers. The similar black bat plant has black or purple bracts.
There is also an Australian native species called T. leontopetaloides. This plant is suited to the tropics and subtropics. Outside these areas bat plants can be grown in filtered light in a humid glasshouse or conservatory, with a minimum temperature of about 15°C. It produces extraordinary flowers, has attractive foliage and is a stunning novelty plant. It is difficult to grow, may be hard to find and therefore suited to dedicated green thumbs!
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