Weekly Photo Challenge: Del·i·cate

These lines have been left blank for the words the Sandy Hook Elementary children and their teachers didn’t get a chance to say…  


August 6, 2012 at 9:15 pm

August 6, 2012 at 9:15 pm

After a neighbor gave me a pot of green stick-like thingies which he claimed was a night-blooming “plant”, I put in on my patio and forgot about it.

The snails didn’t. They ate such big chunks of those poor “sticks”, I contemplated throwing it out.

One afternoon last summer I looked down at the pot and discovered a flower growing on what was left of one of the stems.

August 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm

August 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I ran inside to look up night-blooming plants…

  •  Night-blooming cereus is the common name of a large number of flowering Cereus cacti that bloom at night.
  •  The genus Cereus is among the oldest botanical genera, dating to the 1750s when early navigators discovered them in the jungles of Central and South America
  • Any cactus species that has a treelike or columnar shape that bears nocturnal-opening, trumpet-shaped flowers may be called a night-blooming cereus.
  • The plant, described as a spineless climbing cactus, is native to the Western hemisphere – from the Sonora Desert [i.e south-western Arizona and south-eastern California, as well as most of Baja California in Mexico] down to South America.
  • It makes a spectacular, sprawling potted plant, requiring very little care and attention, except for a sunny location.

“the bud will begin to open at dusk, to become a fully open flower a few hours later. The sight and smell of it will fill your room with beauty, and it will be over by morning”.

I began to check my little friend every day. On the third evening the flower looked as though it was almost ready to open,

August 6, 2012 at 6:14pm

August 6, 2012 at 6:14pm

so I went out again at 8 pm and this is what I found

August 6, 2012 at 8:12 pm

August 6, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I sat on the ground next to the plant, spellbound by the magic as the thin, creamy, outer petals unfolded slowly, petal by petal – almost like a time-lapse camera but in real-time – to open into a del·i·cate flower that looked something like a Magnolia, and gave off an unbelievably intoxicating, sweet fragrance.

August 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm

August 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Sandra Dark from Cornell University described the night-blooming Cereus in the August 1980 issue of Flower and Garden Magazine:

Imagine a pure white, seven-inch blossom spreading majestically in the darkness of a midsummer’s night. The scent is heavy, almost overpowering in close quarters.

August 6, 2012 at 8:27 pm

August 6, 2012 at 8:27 pm

August 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm

August 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Although I’d read that the flowers last only last one night, that the petals fade with the first light of dawn,  I raced outside in the morning hoping to see more of its beauty in the daylight …

August 7, 2012 at 6:44 am

August 7, 2012 at 6:44 am

but sadly, as predicted,  it was over.

  • The first year a night-blooming Cereus blooms, it might produce as few as two or three blossoms, but blossom numbers and frequency usually increase dramatically during following years.

One week later, another “baby” appeared.

August 13, 2012 at 10:24 am

August 13, 2012 at 10:24 am

  • It is most likely, that my “Night Blooming Cereus”, is actually Epiphyllum oxypetalum easily identified by its unique bloom i.e while the bud forms, it grows pointing down and a few days before it blooms, the bud starts to point up.
  • The name “Epiphyllum”  means “upon the leaf” in reference to their habit of sending out their flowers from the edges of the “leaf”.
  • Oxypetalum blooms for survival, not pleasure. If the plant is very healthy it doesn’t feel threatened, and won’t bloom.
  • Since 1900, Southern California, with its favorable climate, has become the Epiphyllum capital of the world.
  • The flowers of the Epiphyllum species, with only one exception, are all white, or white with a touch of yellow.

After those two evenings my night-blooming cereus has become a treasured friend on my patio. I have to ignore it again this winter, so it will gift me with more blooms next summer.

  • Have you ever seen one of these night-blooming plants?
  • In a pot on a patio
  • Or in the desert?


This post is part of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – this week’s theme is “Delicate.

About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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61 Responses to Weekly Photo Challenge: Del·i·cate

  1. sybil says:

    Let me say this slowly: I live in Canada … Our deserts are covered in snow …

    What a lovely flower. I wonder if the slug attack helped bring on the initial blooming ? Next summer I could send you a jar of slugs … 😉

    • dearrosie says:

      Yes I do think the snails combined with the neglect helped bring the initial blooming. It’s possible that it won’t bloom next year because I was so excited to see the flowers that I gave it weekly plant food. Duh! I hadn’t seen the point about needing to neglect it!

      Thank you for your generous offer Sybil, but most probably because we don’t use poisons, we have plenty of snails over here. You’ll always find several on my lemon tree -they love citrus leaves.

      During the cold winter nights there’s always a crowd congregating on the warm glass of the garden lights lining the walkway to our front door, and whenever it rains the sidewalks in our neighborhood are covered with snails out for a walk.

  2. I love this and I find it so timely and poignant somehow … just perfect!! Lovely job, Rosie & great research as well as marvelous photos!!!

  3. Corilee says:

    What a gorgeous flower from such a “meh” plant – i love it. great photos Rosie!

    • dearrosie says:

      Thanks for your great comment Corilee.
      Anyone who is “fussy” about the *look* of the pot plants on their patio would not have kept that poor plant. I think I only kept it because I was told it had a wonderful scent. It was the best *gift* my garden has ever given me.

  4. Interesting that this happened in August and now it seems the perfect time to share. You are amazing–green thumb–or not. What a show and the metaphor is incredible–blooming in the night. Oh my goodness.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you Georgette. I don’t often manage to post something when it happens. Do you?
      (My post about xylitol being deadly for dogs had to wait about 18 months for me to share it).
      This week when all our hearts are broken, I knew I should share the story. It was synchronicity that WordPress chose “delicate” as the theme.

  5. E fullstop says:

    We have a mature one of these plants in the corner of our carport, which our landlady planted about 20 years ago. It’s about 10 feet tall and probably as wide, and it gives one or two majestic performances each year, sometimes producing 30 or more blossoms at once. It has flourished under minimal (read: no) care, so I’d say your plan to ignore your specimen is a fine one.

    I love the photos where the flower is glowing with light. Beautiful!

    • dearrosie says:

      I can’t imagine my little plant growing to be 10 feet tall or that it may one day produce thirty blossoms at once. Sheesh that’s what I’d call an OMG moment 🙂 Does anyone notice when it puts out so many flowers? Perhaps its been there so long and is such a plain, insignificant thing most of the year that no one cares. Poor thing.

      It means a lot to me when a photographer such as yourself complements me on my photos. Muchas gracias amiga!

  6. Lovely lovely! I’ve not run across a night-blooming plant. The closest I’ve gotten to nighttime magic is the wonderful frangipani tree, which is more fragrant at night in order to attract the moths that pollinate it.

    Thanks for new information with spectacular photos 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      I know and also love the fragipani tree. I didn’t remember that its more frangrant at night. I wonder whether the night blooming cereus is pollinated by the same moths?

  7. A beautiful, rare, magical moment. It may had been fleeting but you captured it in a way we will always remember in our hearts. Merry Christmas and best wishes to you and your family.

  8. Lindy says:

    Hi Rosie
    It is lovely. Any idea how it is pollenated? Most night-time plants with a strong smell and big white or yellow flowers are pollenated by bats! Does that hold for this one? If so I can see you sitting up all night waiting to see it being pollenated next year.

    We have a foreign invader here commonly called, ‘The Queen of the Night’ with similar flowers and habits only on a very prickly cactus which can grow about 7 or 8 feet high. Mum had an illegal one in her garden in Gambia Rd

    • dearrosie says:

      Always a pleasure to welcome old friends to my blog. Thanks for visiting Lindy 🙂
      I believe that Cereus flowers are pollinated by nectar-feeding bats and by sphinx moths. As much as I enjoyed watching the flowers bloom and breathing in the scent, I don’t think I’d stay up all night just to see the moths arrive. (We don’t have bats in LA)

      Interesting to learn that “the Queen of the Night” has traveled all the way to your part of the world. I wonder how it got there? You called it a “foreign invader”.

      Did your Mum’s plant bloom?

  9. magsx2 says:

    Such an unusual plant, but the flowers are gorgeous, I have never heard of these plants before, the patio seems the ideal spot for it, even though the snails had a snack it still was full of life. Great photos.

    • dearrosie says:

      The flowers are beautiful aren’t they? I’m so sorry I can’t share their intoxicating scent here on my blog.
      My patio doesn’t get enough sun really so I was lucky to get the two flowers.

      I’ve got to ignore the plant now and not worry if the snails get to it…
      Thanks for commenting Mags 🙂

  10. bronxboy55 says:

    Beautiful post, Rosie, from beginning to end. Do the petals really open quickly enough that you can watch it happen? And if the plant has many blossoms, do they all open at once?

    • dearrosie says:

      So glad you enjoyed the post Charles.
      It really did open that quickly – a thrilling experience for me to watch it. Only once it was fully open did it send out that amazing scent – I guess its to let the moths know they could come on over.
      I assume that a plant with many flowers could have several opening at the same time, but I don’t know for sure, because my two flowers bloomed at different times.

  11. aFrankAngle says:

    Just another example of finding beauty in unexpected places.

  12. What a magical plant, Rosie! I’ve never seen one before anywhere – had no idea such a thing existed. It seems poetic in some way, that a neglected or threatened plant would produce such a beautiful blossom only as a means to survive.

    Yes, may the little ones of Sandy Hook and their guardians rest in peace…

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  14. shoreacres says:

    Oh, how wonderful! When I lived in Liberia, there was a flower we called a peppermint lily because it was red and white striped. It only bloomed once a year, for one night. When it opened, just as you say, it was like a time-lapse. We’d have lily-watching parties – it always bloomed under the full moon.

    And believe it or not, I’ve had a globby old cactus sitting out on my balcony for years. Two years ago, it decided to bloom. It’s a cereus, too – cereus peruvianus monstrose – and each flower bloomed only from about 10 p.m. until dawn. I won’t load you down with pics, but here are a couple. There’s the bud and here’s one of the flower. Such fun!

    • dearrosie says:

      I remember your post when your cactus suddenly bloomed, but I don’t remember that the flowers were so beautiful – thank you for sharing them
      [I don’t know how you share photos here. I’m so impressed!]
      Has your cereus bloomed every year?

      I’m trying to remember the lovely name you gave your cactus… Oh shucks, I meant to ask everyone reading this post to suggest a name for my beauty. Any suggestions Linda?

  15. shoreacres says:

    Oops – that was operator error on the bud. Here it is again. Bud

  16. Oh my goodness….what a marvel to witness the blossoming of that plant! What a joy! And it was so beautiful….in the time that it was there. Life is so precious and so delicate.

    • dearrosie says:

      Welcome to my blog PP.
      As the flower was opening I was as excited as a school girl at the start of summer holidays, so when I heard a neighbor going out to walk her dog I rushed out to tell her, “Oh how nice,” she said and carried on walking…

      It was a wonderful way to be in the NOW. It wasn’t there yesterday and would be gone tomorrow so I stopped everything and went outside and meditated on a little flower, and when it was fully opened and the intoxicating scent wafted over to me I felt as if I’d been sprinkled with angel dust…

  17. eof737 says:

    What a lovely bud and so much work… 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      In nature I always thought a flower would either look lovely or have a lovely scent. This one has both, but only lasts for a few short hours. Fascinating isn’t it?

  18. wightrabbit says:

    Magical, enchanting and uplifting ~ thank you, Rosie, for posting these wonderful pictures today! 🙂

  19. A beautiful, delicate flower, Rosie. Very interesting!! 🙂

  20. shoreacres says:

    That was a different cactus that I wrote about – his name was Godot. The cereus has only bloomed once. I thought it might bloom again this year, but nothing. Oh, well. I got to enjoy yours instead!

    • dearrosie says:

      Oh yes that’s right, I remember his name was Godot. Brilliant name!
      I guess the secret to getting the cereus to bloom every year is simply ignoring them over the winter.

  21. nrhatch says:

    What a treat! Thanks, Rosie.

  22. I do have several epithelium plants, but not all are night-blooming. Some of my other cacti are night blooming, and I never fail to be amazed. Your photos are just wonderful. You were tenacious to capture the whole cycle! 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      I didn’t realize that not all epithelium plants bloom at night. Thanks for correcting me. It was astonishing to see such beautiful delicate flowers with such an intoxicating scent emerge out of those half eaten “sticks”.

  23. Arindam says:

    What a great post Rosie Auntie. 🙂 I loved all these pictures. Awesome stuff. 🙂

  24. aFrankAngle says:

    Off topic … The best of holiday wishes to you and your loved ones!

  25. Kathy says:

    Spellbound at this delicate offering, too, Rosie. Magic! We have a Christmas Cactus and it now has two new blooms where it faces the sun. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and the best in 2013…

    • dearrosie says:

      Oops excuse my delay in replying to your comment. Thanks for the Christmas greetings. I wish you all a very Happy New Year.

      I’ve had Christmas cactus plants that bloomed when I was given them but which I soon managed to kill off. I don’t know whether its from over-watering or lack of sun.

  26. Dinah says:

    What a fantastic plant!! To discourage the snails, you could do one or more of the following: sprinkle a nice layer of ashes or hair cuttings on the soil (snails dislike both); put a saucer of beer nearby (they love beer); or, at last resort, go outside with a flashlight first thing in the morning and bag them!
    Enjoy your magnificent flower, Rosie!

    • dearrosie says:

      Have you ever seen the flower of a night-blooming Cereus Dinah? I’ll let you know next time I get a flower so you can come over and watch it open.

      I’ve heard of the beer trick to discourage snails, but have never heard of hair cuttings! How interesting! I think my main problem was that I didn’t realize there was an infestation of snails until it was too late. I know they come out after it rains so after all the recent rains I should be out there putting my hair clippings in the plant pots!

  27. Robin says:

    What a beautiful flower, Rosie. It seems magical to me, only blooming at night and for only one night at that. I’ve never seen a night blooming plant, in a pot or in the desert.

    Wishing you a joyful 2013, and the opportunity to witness another delicate bloom. 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Watching the flower open and put out its intoxicating scent in such a short space of time is a magical experience! I hope you’re able to see it one day Robin.

      I wish you a very Happy Healthy joyful 2013.

  28. You have magic in your garden! Everything about the plant is magical, surely. But everything about the way you — unassumingly — talk about it is even more awesome. And that you chose to open the post the way you did.

    • dearrosie says:

      You always leave such encouraging message, and of course you noticed the blank lines I left for the Sandy Hook children and teachers…. Thank you dear Priya.

      Magic is the only way to describe a flower that blooms and disappears in one night. I hope to welcome more magic in my garden next summer. Do you have night-blooming flowers in your garden?

  29. It seems your plants and mine (sadly) have something in common! Can’t wait for Spring to get sprung again so I’m not left struggling with my containers inside!

    • dearrosie says:

      Although the snails had made a fine meal of the plant and I almost threw it out, it still managed to give me two perfect flowers with that amazing scent. In the past couple of months I’m thrilled to say there are several new shoots coming up – one of them is long and thin like a knitting needle.

  30. Pingback: Unique eh? | Wondering Rose

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