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Valentine.gr  

November 2008

Did you know that natives in Malaysia are deathly afraid of looking into the "eyes" of the Devil Flower for fear of death?

Bat Flower (Tacca Chantrieri)

Bat Flower - Tacca spp.

Tacca is a genus of ten species of flowering plants in the order Dioscoreales, These are interesting, evergreen, perennial and herbaceous plants are native to tropical regions of Africa, southeastern Asia, Pacific Islands, and Australia. In older texts, the genus was treated in its own family Taccaceae, but the 2003 APG II system incorporates it into the family Dioscoreaceae. Several species are cultivated as ornamental plants for their bold foliage and large flowers.

The kinds in cultivation have creeping rhizomes or rootstocks and large, oval, crinkly foliage. The purplish-brown flowers are produced in bunches atop long, thick stems, 18 to 24 inches high. Long whiskers are suspended from the lovely flowers.

Tacca are not tolerant of cool temperatures, drying out, or wet roots. Most of these oddities thrive on the moist soils of the forest floor.

Tacca have a mutualistic relationship with fungi, known as vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizas (VAM). This relationship explains why the plant dislikes either dry or sodden soils. The extremes probably hinder the functioning of the fungi. VAM helps the Tacca to better utilize the soil it is growing in. The bat flower gives the fungi a share of the photosynthates (sugars and proteins) it manufactures.

In Southeast Asia, the vernacular names for this plant range from Bat-Flower, Tiger’s Whisker or Devil Flower. Tacca flowers are dark purple, brown, or near black in color and are actinomorphic, hermaphroditic with six stamens. It is thought that the flowing whisker-like structures, the brown, black or dark redcolor, and the large bracts are part of a ‘deceit strategy’ used by the plant to attract flies and other carrioneaters, to act as agents of cross-pollination. Some species of Tacca even mimic the smell of rotting flesh tofurther ensure that they get to mate with the good-looking specimen over there.

Tacca Chantrieri  the  Bat Plant) grows in moist and shaded places.This peculiar species has beautiful foliage. It flowers in spring time. The unique black flower looks like a bat. Its beautiful inflorescence complete with long purplish filaments 12in long forming a flowing forked tail. These filaments seem to bear resemblance to tiger wiskers and hence its name Tiger Wiskers. Flowers rise up on long stems about 2ft in height from the crown of broad shiny leaves. It is a traditional Chinese Medicinal plant and is believed to be able to cure gastric ulcer, high blood pressure and burns. Caution this plant is poisonous. 

In Malaysia they call it the Devil's Flower and strange, fascinating stories surround it. Originating, no doubt, from the malevolent way the eyes in the bloom seem to be following your every move! Natives are deathly afraid of looking into the "eyes" of the Devil Flower for fear of death.

The white bat flower (Tacca integrifolia) was first described sometime in the early 1800s. And there appears to be some confusion over the botanist who found it. Was it John Bellenden Ker, John Ker Bellenden, or maybe John Gawler? Perhaps, it does not matter. The plant is bizarrely spectacular and we can thank him for his discovery.

Tacca pinnatifida (Tacca leontopetaloides) is a perennial herb of East Indies to Polynesia and Australia,cultivated for its large edible root. Tacca pinnatifida  contains a lot of starch in its rhizomes, which, when extracted and prepared for food, is called East Indian Arrowroot or South Sea Arrowroot. 


Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacca
http://www.botany.com/tacca.html
http://www.killerplants.com/plant-of-the-week/20011022.asp
http://www.yale.edu/marshgardens/documents/061013.pdf

 

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