The Extravagant Black Bat flower
The unusual Black Bat flower, Tacca chantrieri (Dioscoreales - Dioscoreaceae), is quite distinctive by the strange, unique, near black flowers. The flowers, which can grow up to 25 cm long, have four large, dark-purple bracts and long bracteoles, giving the inflorescence a striking appearance that superficially resemble a flying bat, a sinister face, or a mean tiger with whiskers.
Tacca chantrieri is an endangered species that occurs in tropical regions of SE Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, and southern China, particularly Yunnan Province.
The features of these flowers have been assumed to function as a ‘‘deceit syndrome’’ in which reproductive structures resemble decaying organic material attracting flies that facilitate cross-pollination (sapromyiophily). However, a study on pollination and mating in Tacca chantrieri populations from SW China, has shown that despite considerable investment in extravagant display, populations of this species are predominantly selfing and that flowers have several traits that promote autonomous self-pollination.
Photo credit: ©Stephanie Lichlyter
Locality: Cultivated (Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, US)