A very likable bat (plant)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Whiskers are really modified leaves as are the "wings" of
the bat.

Here’s a reason to celebrate: the bat-plant is flowering.

Its upright white bracts hover like wings above a cluster of flowers draped with long whiskers (really


The white bat-plant with
one of its flowers open.

bracteoles or little bracts that are modified leaves). The whiskers remind me of drawings of the wispy beards of Chinese elders, but for most people, they resemble cats’ whiskers. The flowers’ anthers and stamens are packed in a perianth, which is the name for the fused sepals and petals that surround them like cups. They are deep purple, almost black, in contrast to the white lofty wings, making this “flower” one of the most intriguing and captivating that I grow.

Tacca integrifolia, the white bat-plant, has opened one flower this week, and another bud is promising.  Its six bright green leaves are long and somewhat oval, with deeply etched veins, giving them a rippled look. Tacca chantrieri is the black bat-plant.

I grow my bat plant in a container. It grows on an upright rhizome, with leaves emerging from the top and roots sprouting from around the tuber. It is in shade, but in midsummer receives a few dollops of sun through the palm fronds when the sun is overhead. I give it Dynamite 13-13-13, along with an occasional drink of fish emulsion and a sprinkle of regular palm fertilizer. Bat-plants, which are from tropical rainforests, are cold sensitive. They like less water in winter than summer. Finding the right conditions for them is more than rewarding.