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Tacca-the bat lily

The family Taccaceae is a small family of about 10 monocots from SE Asia and 1 pantropical species. The natural habitat range from deep forest (palmata, integrifolia) to sandy seashore (leontopetaloides). The latter is called Tahiti Arrowroot and its starchy tubers can be eaten.

T. integrifolia (syn cristata)

This is the same species, but the colour is dark burgundy

 

I recieved some unknown bulbs from Thailand and when it started growing, it looked like a highly unusual Amorphophallus with dark stems and finely divided leaf. It then bloom to become the common Tacca leontopetaloides and my heart sank. Supposedly, early botanist George Rumphius made a similar error by describing a plant which was intermediate of the two. Fortunately, he was more famous for his other good work inside the six volume monumental Herbarium Amboinensis.

 

Taccas are grown for their curious bloom, which may be very dark colour (chandrieri) or even white (T. nivea). When not flowering, the foliage is also very pretty, with dark brown petiole and long leaves looking either like pendent   Bird's nest Anthuriums or small palms, depending on the species.

 

T. integrifolia foliage in situ

T. chandrieri

 

Cultivation:

The jungle species like T. integrifolia and palmata require a damp shady condition. Never allow the soil to dry - standing the pot in a shallow tray of water will help a lot. Taccas generally do not transport well when bare-rooted and will go in a state of shock within a few hours.  T. chandrieri   and leontopetaloides have proven to self-fertilising and produce seedlings at the base of mother plants without my knowledge. They also tolerate  a brighter and drier condition and are typically more robust and for this reason, are more common in cultivation. Fertiliser demand is very low.T . integrifolia has never set seeds for me - I notice the large bloom always droop to the forest floor and often wondered if their pollinators climb up those "whiskers" from the ground . Their seeds are also quite difficult and germination rate is low even if fresh. Compare to chandrieri, which starts flowering after only 18 months or so, they are much slower - flowering from seeds after about 30 months. Since they are forest plants, they would require a slightly acidic condition - I found peat to be a suitable medium. Spider mites and thrips are problems I have encountered. 

 

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