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Tacca integrifolia Ker Gawl. 1812
pronounced: TAK-kah in-teg-rih-FOE-lee-uh
(Dioscoreaceae – the yam family. Sometimes placed in Taccaceæ)
common name: White Batflower
Most authorities now classify plants according to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group System (APG). When this was first published in 1998, Taccaceæ was described as a separate family, containing only the Tacca genus. The 2003 revision of the system (APG II) placed all these plants in the Dioscoreaceæ. Tacca is from the Malayan word for the Black Bat plant; integrifolia is from the Latin, integer, whole, entire, and folium, a leaf.
This is native to the tropical and subtropical rainforests of central Asia, where it grows in the loamy understorey, often in deep shade. It is a herb that grows from a thick cylindrical rhizome. The leaf blades are oblong-elliptical to oblong-lanceolate in shape, with tapering bases and slender pointed tips. Measuring up to about 50 by 20 cm, they are borne on long stems. The plant reaches a height of between 60 and 120 cm, with a spread of up to about 60 cm.
The flower scape is up to about 55 cm long, tipped with a pair of involucral bracts that are broad and erect. In colour they are white with mauve venation. The individual nodding flowers are arranged in an umbel, and among them are many long filiform bracts up to about 30 cm long, like whiskers. The perianth of each flower is tubular in shape and purplish black in colour, 1 – 2 cm long, with two whorls of 3 perianth lobes. The outer 3 of these are narrowly oblong, and the inner 3 are broadly obovate. The stamens are attached to the perianth tube rather like a helmet, and, together with the flat-topped stigma, probably form an insect trap – there is also a sweet musky odour which may attract the insects. After pollination, the scape bends over and the fruits develop while they are resting on the ground.
The fruits are fleshy berries about 2 cm long, a dull colour with soft jell-like pulp, containing seeds with 6 longitudinal ridges, and with the remains of the perianth lobes still attached to them. The seeds are probably dispersed by small mammals that feed on the fruits. The fruits take a very long time to ripen to maturity.
The plants can be successfully grown indoors. They need quite bright light if inside, but not direct sunlight. Although they need plenty of good air circulation, they enjoy higher humidity, and will benefit from misting. It is probably best to take the plants outdoors in summer, but they should be brought back inside when the temperature drops to 7 or 8º C.
The plants can be propagated from seed. It is best to hand-pollinate the flowers to avoid the possibility of self-pollination. When the capsules split to reveal the seeds, they should be cleaned of pulp and dried before planting. It is actually much easier to propagate by rhizome division when repotting the plants.
Photographed in Arcadia April 2018, April 2019
Page last updated 14th April 2018