Forest visitors go batty over flower

An unusual tropical herb is flowering at the Otago Museum’s Tropical Forest.

Tacca chantrieri Andre, which belongs to the yam family, is more commonly known as the black bat flower, devil flower or cat’s whiskers — and it is not hard to see why.

The flower is up to 30cm wide, black, somewhat bat-shaped, and has long whiskers that can grow up to 70cm.

Otago Museum living environment officer Dr Anthony Stumbo said when he heard vistors to the forest say "wow" it often meant they had spotted the bat flower.

"It gets its photo taken quite a bit".

Otago Museum living environment officer Dr Anthony Stumbo admires the Tacca chantrieri Andre, ...
Otago Museum living environment officer Dr Anthony Stumbo admires the Tacca chantrieri Andre, more commonly known as the black bat flower, at Otago Museum. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

The rare flower unexpectedly belongs to the yam family and is mostly found in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

It was likely there were more in artificial environments than in the wild, as it needed specific conditions to survive, he said.

As for its scent, it is perhaps as you would expect a bat flower to smell.

"When the flower itself starts to die, it can get quite pungent," Dr Stumbo said.

"It is not a sweet-smelling flower."

 

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