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Holy Cat Whiskers, It’s a Bat Plant!
The Living Rainforest is going Gothic this autumn, with large dark blooms which look like flying bats.
Rare and hard to find, the Bat Plant or Black Beauty (Tacca chantrieri) is native to Southeast Asia. The purple-black flower is said to look like a flying bat, a sinister face or a cat with enormous long whiskers.
In Malaysia they call it the Devil’s Flower and strange, fascinating stories surround it, originating perhaps from the way the eyes seem to follow your every move.
It grows to about 2ft. in height with flowers complete with filaments or whiskers up to 30cms long forming a flowing forked tail.
The Bat Plant belongs to the plant family Dioscoreaceae which includes yams and other herbaceous vines.
What appear to be large, darkly coloured petals are in fact ‘involucral bracts’ and not floral structures at all, just like the festive red ‘petals’ of the poinsettia. The real flowers are the cup-shaped structures within, surrounded by distinctive whiskers.
The Bat Plant normally blooms in late summer and early autumn. It prefers shade with filtered light and wind protection. After flowering, berries often follow.
There are twelve species in the genus Tacca. In addition to southeast Asia, Tacca can also be found in tropical Africa, Madagascar and northeast South America.
The Bat Plants currently on show at the Living Rainforest are expected to flower until around the end of October – Halloween trick or treaters, beware!
NOTE (November 5th 2009) – The Bat Plants in Lowland House are still flourishing !
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