Bat Plant (Tacca)
‘Twas a clear and balmy night, in a damp, secluded corner of the garden. Silver moonlight shimmered brightly from the whiskers of an eerie creature. It appeared to have black wings from which purple balls were hanging. I hesitated, unsure whether this creature would attack on not. I reached for my trusty plant encyclopedia and discovered it was, in fact, a Black Bat Plant (Tacca chantierei) and unlikely to pounce although it is one of the most peculiar and spectacular flowering plants.
The genus, Tacca, contains 10 species which can naturally be found in Africa and South East Asia and are most commonly known for their ornamental value with the Black Bat Plant and the White Bat Plant (T. integrifolia) being the most popular.
All Bat Plants prefer damp but well drained soil, so combinations of a light course material such as perlite or fine pine bark blended with compost or peat and river sand are ideal. Humidity is also important. Protect from winds by growing in a courtyard, shade house or surrounded by other plants. Open verandas and dry atriums will stunt their growth. Reduce watering during the cooler months while the plant goes into hibernation.
Propagation by seed can be achieved in about 3 months provided the mix is kept moist and warm. Use seeds from capsules which have matured on the plant. The rhizome of larger plants can be divided in spring.
Snails and slugs are the main pests of the Bat Plant and occasionally the leaves can develop a fungal problem. Test any fungicide on a single leaf before treating the whole plant to avoid burning the whole plant.
As Tacca do not make great cut flowers, grow them in pots and move them to a prominent location while in bloom.
Bat Plants require particular conditions for healthy growth, but if provided with these conditions, will reward you with flowers which will amaze you and any visitors to your garden.