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In the Magazine

White Bat Plant

In the Garden > Flowering Plants & Shrubs

White Bat Plant

Don looked at one of the world's weirdest plants. The white bat plant, as it is commonly known, has strange, almost bizarre flowers resembling a bat's black face with white ears and long whiskers. It is found naturally in south-east Asia and from eastern India to southern China.

Plant details

Common name: White bat plant

Botanic name: Tacca integrifolia (sometimes incorrectly sold as T. alternaefolia and may also be identified as 'Niveum').

Description

An upright leafy plant with grey-green, narrow leaves growing from an underground fleshy root. The flowers are borne in flower heads of up to thirty blooms. These form the bat's face. They range in colour from purple-red to brown. The flowers are topped by white floral leaves called bracts, which resemble bat's ears. Filaments up to 20cm (8") long or more hang from the flowers. The similar black bat plant has black or purple bracts. There is also an Australian native species called T. leontopetaloides.

Best climate

The tropics and subtropics (Brisbane). Outside these areas bat plants can be grown in filtered light in a humid glasshouse or conservatory, with a minimum temperature of about 15C (60F).

Good points:

extraordinary flowers attractive foliage stunning novelty plant

Downside:

difficult to grow only suitable for tropical or subtropical areas, or glasshouse culture may be hard to find

Care

Bat plants grow best in part shade, in an open, well-drained soil enriched with compost or leaf litter. They do not like strong fertilisers. Plants need adequate water during the growing season, but should be allowed to dry out during the colder months. Indoor plants should be misted regularly with an atomiser to maintain humidity. Propagate by dividing the fleshy roots.

Getting started

White bat plants cost about $18 in a 150mm (6") pot or $65 in a 300mm (12") pot. They are not readily available but you may like to try the nurseries listed below.

There is also a black bat plant which is similar to the white but lacks the white 'ears'. It is generally sold as T. integrifolia 'Chantrieri'. This plant may be easier to find but is just as difficult to grow.

Equatorial Exotics,
PO Box 79R,
Redlynch, QLD, 4870
The nursery is open by appointment and does sell plants by mail order. To contact the nursery or receive a plant list:
Phone: (07) 4039 1135
Fax: (07) 4039 1199
Email: ardendearden@hotmail.com

Paradise Distributors
27a Bonney Street
Nambour, QLD, 4560
Phone: (07) 5441 5921
(black bat plants available)

Swane's Garden Centre
490 Galston Road
Dural, NSW, 2158
Phone: (02) 9651 1322
Fax: (02) 9651 2146
Email: swanes@bigpond.com

Further information

There is an interesting bat plant website with information on bat plant culture, pictures and even bat plant chat! You'll find it at: http://www.ccnnwebdesign.com/garden/tacca/tacca.html

Copyright CTC Productions 2000


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