Tacca chantrieri

The other week I was at the nursery trolling for some flowering perennials to add to a client’s planting bed. My client is super laid back and wants to me to plant what I see fit – but within this guild-line:

purples, blues and compact

I found myself wandering around the nursery muttering, “Purples, blues, compact. Purples, blues, compact”, over and over. It’s not like I normally go in there with a typed out plant list or a clip board for God’s sake, usually I’m rushing around grabbing plants of the tables like a mad woman. But I’d like to think that on this day, I looked especially crazy.

I grabbed a flat of 4″ Hebe (Hebe ‘Barnettii’) and headed to the counter to pay and get back to my office for some Quickbookz and reality TV watching. Tim rang me up and added, “Hebe? What’s wrong with you, girl?”

Not being able to leave the nursery without at least one cool thing for myself, I did a quick lap around the indoor plant section and found this gem:

Tacca chantrieri

Otherwise known as, “the black bat flower”, Tacca chantrieri is a species of flowering plants/perennials in the yam family, Dioscoreaceae. I’ve grown these a couple times before with success and was super excited to find another one locally. They like full, partially indirect sun and really good air circulation. Don’t trap them in your stuffy office or bathroom in hopes of a thriving plant – they will die. Taccas also like consistent water (what plants doesn’t?) and well draining soil… I added some lava rock to the soil medium to help with this.

The bat flower is native to Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia and Southern China (in particular Hunan Province). There are ten species in the Tacca genus, which in turn is the only member of the monocot family Taccaceae. The family is centered in the tropical or sub-tropical regions of Southeast Asia, native for the most part to the under-story of rainforests. Tacca chantrieri is endangered in the wild, but specimens are easily found online.

Notice the awesome whisker-like filaments below the flower head. The dark colored bracts and long trailing filaments are used as part of a “deceit strategy” to attract flies and other pollinators. Some species of Tacca even mimic the smell of rotting meat to further ensure they get a good mate. (I know I try to emit a meaty smell when luring a fella! Alright, that sounded funnier in my head…)

In conclusion, if you absolutely have to buy Hebe at the nursery, try to also end up with something cool – like a Tacca.

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