Tacca chantrieri was the first of the species to make a splash in the horticultural world. The cluster of luridly coloured flowers are the deepest maroon, almost black. They have given rise to the sobriquet "Bat Flower" for these marvelous tropical plants. They are also known as “Cats Whiskers” after the long bracts that emanate from the flower scape.
The flowers are carried in racemes of up to 30 blooms. Cloaking the flowers from above are several broad and showy bracts (modified leaves), the flowers hang in umbels underneath. The “whiskers” are actually filiform bracteoles or small bracts which hang down from the flowers and are up to 20cm (8in) long.
The lustrous, lance shaped leaves have a wonderful corrugated patterning and grow to 25cm (10in) wide and 60cm (24in) long. The leaves superficially resemble those of some Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum), but the resemblance ends when the flowers begin to appear.
Tacca is a long-lived, short stemmed, rhizomatous or tuberous herbaceous perennial that is native to the tropics of the Old World and the Pacific Islands. In the wild, it grows in the understory of rain forests in deep shade, but in a diversity of soil types, often growing in accumulations of decayed organic matter.
It is a tropical plant and can be observed elsewhere in the world where it is popular among conservatories and hobby horticulturists. Growing Tacca from seed is not for the beginner - but this is one plant that is always in demand.
Tacca is not particularly demanding once it is given everything it needs to succeed, humidity and protection from strong winds. But Tacca will not adapt to you - you must provide Bat Flowers with what they require. When they like the conditions, they grow, flower a lot and even produce seeds, otherwise they slowly decline and eventually die.
You may wish to do your own research on how to care for these beautiful plants. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to know if you can provide them the right conditions is by trying.
Most of these oddities thrive on the moist soils of the forest floor and are not tolerant of cool temperatures, drying out, or wet roots. These frost-tender plants can be grown outdoors in tropics and subtropics, but elsewhere require the protection of a greenhouse. They need a humid atmosphere, some shade and a peaty soil.
The plants thrive in 70-80% shade with good air circulation. They don't like too much heat or air that is too dry
The soil is one of the most important things for success with Taccas. The mixture needs to be light, very porous, something that drains well. Use something like: 60% Canadian peat moss, 30% perlite, 10% vermiculite. The soil should be a little bit acid, so use something like a "Miracid" occasionally as a fertilizer
Sow seeds as soon as possible.
Soak the seeds 24 hours in warm water (you can put the water in a thermos to keep it warm) Sow 1.5mm (1/16in) deep in trays or pots containing good moist seed compost and seal the container inside a polythene bag or cover with a plastic dome to keep moisture in. Place in a propagator, on a heating mat or warm place to maintain an optimum temperature of 27-29°C (80-85°F). It is essential that the soil temperature is high and kept steady.
Germination can take from 1-9 months so be patient. Don't toss out your seed beds thinking they won't germinate!
Tacca's are known for damping off. Remember to use a good seed starting mix that has been treated for damp-off.
Care of Seedlings:
Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle into 7.5cm (3in) pots of good free draining compost, preferably a peat or peat substitute compost with 10% added grit.
During the growing season (late spring to late summer) the plants will need to be watered very regularly. (Water from below) They don't like to be root bound, so pot on as required into 13cm (5in) and finally 25cm (10in) pots.
Give very little water through the winter and provide a temperature of 15-18°C (60-65°F) through the winter and 25-29°C (75-85°F) through the summer. Re-pot in February/March, shade from strong sun and give the occasional mist spray through the summer.
The seedlings benefit from frequent dilute applications of soluble fertilizer. When small, they pass through a stage of almost chronic chlorosis, even with regular fertilization, but overcome this in a few weeks.
Flowering seems to begin when the plants have produced 2-3 full-size leaves. Each plant produces at least 6 and up to 12 flower stems during the warm months of the year. The leathery capsules (about 1.5" long) require up to a year to ripen. When they split along their sides, numerous 1/4" seeds are revealed embedded in a sticky pulp. The seeds should be cleaned of the pulp and air dried.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 10 Seeds Family Taccaceae Genus Tacca Species chantrieri Cultivar Black Bat Flower Common Name Black Bat Flower, Bat Head Lily, Bat Plant Other Common Names Devil Flower, Cats Whiskers Hardiness Tender Perennial Flowers Black flowers, 2 to 3 years from seed Natural Flower Time In summer Height 60-90cm (24-36in) Position Partial Shade Notes Germination: Challenging. Aftercare: Particular Care Required