The Bat Plant
Among the lush greens and vibrant reds of the tropical forest lurks one of the most unusual plants of the world: Tacca chantrieri, or The Bat Plant. Named for its black bat-like flower that grow up to 12 inches across, The Bat Plant could also be nicknamed The Black Cat Plant for its distinctive long “whiskers” that can grow over 2 ft. long. Other common names include The Devil Flower, Bat-Head Lily, and Black Tacca.
The most common Bat Plant is the beautiful blackish variety, although there are actually several colors including a very ghostly white flowering variety. This amazing rotanical is more than just a fun freak of nature–recent evidence shows that it may actually have cancer-fighting properties. According to an article on this website:
The Therapeutics Program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has been working to isolate substances in the plant in hopes of finding a new plant-derived cancer drug with the potential of Taxol. Taxol, the first microtubule stabilizer derived from the Yew family, has been an effective chemotherapy drug, but patients eventually develop problems with resistance over time and toxicity at higher doses. Researchers have long been seeking alternatives. “We’ve been working with these for years with some good results, but never with the potency of Taxol,” said Mooberry, lead author of the study. “Now we have that potency, and we also show for the first time the taccalonolides’ cellular binding site.”
In other words they have isolated something as effective and powerful as Taxol in the beautiful bewitching bat plant. Go rotanical, go!
Want to grow your own super-freak? If you live in a steamy, humid climate you should have no problem. You can just let it go wild. But for the rest of us, even in my mild SF garden, you’ll need to do it in a pot in a greenhouse most of the year. If it gets below 40 degrees they get very, very cranky. Shade or bright indirect light. Why would a bat like the sun?
Height: About 18-20” with flowers of several inches. Remember the whiskers, though, which can dangle down to the ground!
Hardy to 40 degrees.
Note: this amazing photo came from my cousin Anne Mackin who snapped it at the SF Conservatory of Flowers. They have a regularly blooming Bat Plant!!