These lines have been left blank for the words the Sandy Hook Elementary children and their teachers didn’t get a chance to say…
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.
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 flowers are short-lived – on the day the plant blooms,
“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,
so I went out again at 8 pm and this is what I found
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.
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.
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 …
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.
- 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.“