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Tacca integrifolia Ker-Gawl.
by Norzielawati Bt. Salleh
Newsletter
Tacca integrifolia Ker-Gawl.
by Norzielawati Bt. Salleh

Tacca is a bizarre flowering plant. Four species of Tacca are found in Peninsular Malaysia: T. chantrieri Andre, T. integrifolia Ker-Gawl., T. leontopetaloides (L.) Kuntze and T. palmata Blume. Tacca chantrieri and T. integrifolia have entire leaves; T. leontopetaloides has pinnatifid leaves and is usually found near the sea while T. palmata has palmate leaves. The genus Tacca was originally categorized under the family Taccaceae. However, recently after molecular research, it has been classified under the family Dioscoreaceae together with the yam or ubi in Malay (Caddick et al., 2000, 2002a, 2002b).

The common species in Malaysian forests is T. integrifolia, popularly known as ‘Bat Flower’, because of its two erect white bracts with mauve to purple venation, which look like bat wings. Its local Malay name is keladi murai. Tacca integrifolia grows on the forest floor in deep shade and is widely distributed in lowland and hill forest in both Peninsular and East Malaysia.

It is herbaceous, rhizomatous, and has large green leaves (11-45 × 5-12 cm). The cluster of 7–14 flowers on a long stalk up to 75 cm tall is held above the leaves. The two upper bracts (3.5-9 × 2-6 cm) of the flower are inserted in the axil of one of the outer bracts, and are commonly called the ‘bat wings’. The two outer bracts are sessile and arranged oppositely. The long filiform bracts like ‘whiskers’, hang beneath and can be as long as 30 cm.

At first, the flowers are erect but after anthesis, they become pendent. The flowers smell like rotting meat and attract flies as pollinators. The fruits (c. 3 × 1.5 cm) are ellipsoid with thick and fleshy walls. They are swollen on the inner side of the base of the stalk causing the whole infructescence to hang down thereby placing the immature fruits on the ground. When the fruits are mature they become a dull maroon colour. They are probably dispersed by small mammals like rodents because of their dull colour and placement on the ground (Saw, 1993).

In the United States and Europe, it is popular as a horticultural plant for its striking and unique inflorescence. The plant is easy to grow in shade with good air circulation.

References

  1. Caddick, L.R., Rudall, P.J., Wilkin, P. & Chase, M.W. (2000). Yams and their allies: Systematics of Dioscoreales. In Wilson, K.L. & Morrison, D.A. (eds.) Systematics and Evolution of Monocots. Proceedings of the 2nd International Monocot Symposium. CSIRO Publishing. pp. 465-487.
  2. Caddick, L.R., Rudall, P.J., Wilkin, P., Hedderson, T.A.J. & Chase, M.W. (2002). Phylogenetics of Dioscoreales based on combined analyses of morphological and molecular data. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 138 (2): pp. 123-144
  3. Caddick, L.R., Wilkin, P., Rudall, P.J., Hedderson, T.A.J. & Chase, M.W. (2002). Yams Reclassified: A Recircumscription of Dioscoreaceae and Dioscoreales. Taxon 51 (1): pp. 103-114
  4. Saw, L.G. (1993). Tacca flowering and fruiting behaviour. Nature Malaysiana 18 (1): pp. 3-6
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