June 30, 2022

I received a post today from Vicki Brown, one of the members of the Arkansas Gardening Group that I follow.  Most of the posts are from fellow gardeners either displaying the uniqueness of their own yards or asking questions concerning how to control pests or grow vegetables.  This post took a different direction and contained pictures of one of the unique plats on display at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.  While most of the plants on display are native to the region, the black bat flower is not.  The plant derives its name from the fact that it tends to look like a bat.

When I looked online, I found Black Bat flower (Tacca chantrieri) is a species of flowering plant in the yam family Dioscoreaceae and was first described in 1901 by Édouard André.  The bat flower is unusual because it has black flowers.  The black bat grows to a height of 24-36 inches (60-90 cm).  The flowers are somewhat bat-shaped, are up to 12 inches (30 cm) across and have long ‘whiskers’ that can grow up to 28 inches (70 cm).  There are ten species in the genus Tacca.  Both the black and the white bat flowers (Tacca integrifolia) are native to the hilly regions of tropical and subtropical central Asia, in forests and valleys, along rivers in altitudes from 200 to 1300 meters above sea level.  They flourish in the understory of humid rainforests in shady spots.  Another Tacca called the white bat flower reaches up to four feet in height (120 cm), or almost twice the size of black bat flower.  The black bat flower was first thought to have been pollinated by flies seeking decaying organic material (since it was black) but study has found the plants are essentially self-pollinating.

The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks is in Fayetteville, in Northwest Arkansas and draws more than 70,000 visitors a year.  The Garden features 12 themed gardens and Arkansas’ only butterfly house.  The landscaped grounds display four seasons of native flora and fauna.  The public garden is dedicated to education and environmental awareness and serves as a community destination for a unique nature experience.  The Garden’s education programs include workshops, classes, and lectures for adults in horticulture, conservation, and other topics of interest to gardeners of all skill levels, and for others who admire the beauty and science of the natural world.  Most of the education programs are for children of all ages.  The Garden also cooperates with area school districts to provide hands-on nature and science learning experiences.

THOUGHTS:  When we lived in Wichita, Melissa and I were members of the local botanical garden, and my brother and his wife still are.   The garden did not have a bat flower of any kind on display, but that is not surprising as the plants are only hardy to zone 11.  Wichita is in zone six, but Fayetteville is only located in zone 7.  It makes me wonder how the Fayetteville Garden keeps the plant from freezing during the winter.  Botanical gardens serve several purposes.  They are repositories for local plants and small fauna (insects, amphibians, birds, mammals) and act as displays for unique species (like the black bat plant) that are not native.  They also serve to educate the public on the important role other species play in our ecosystems.  We are not alone and cannot act like we are.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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