Friday, July 18, 2008

Night Blooming Cereus

The Night Blooming Cereus is a difficult plant to know what to do with. Three hundred and sixty four days of the year. it's a sprawling, essentially unattractive cactus, best kept in some out of the way spot. And then it blooms and fills the air around it with intoxicating sweetness.

Each bloom is a brief miracle of complexity and enticement -- they begin to open at dusk, are in full glory by darkness, and come morning, are sad, limp reminders of the glory that has passed.

They aren't cold hardy. Mine lives in my greenhouse. And there have been years that I've missed the one night. Sometimes there's a second, lesser bloom. Sometimes I miss that too.

I once tried to paint a picture of a cereus in its various stages - bud, opening bloom, full bloom. Very daunting. But it was fun trying.

When I was growing up in Tampa, back in the Fifties, my grandparents had a Night Blooming Cereus, growing up a tall pine in their yard. They kept a careful watch on it and alerted friends as the night of blooming drew near. When the night finally came, folks would gather in the yard at dusk, sitting in lawn chairs and staring up to count the blossoms -- one memorable year there were 92. My grandmother would serve coffee and dessert and people would talk quietly as darkness fell. It was a hushed and magical time, waiting for this promised beauty.

And then, when the moment was right, my grandfather would turn a spotlight on the tree. All up and down its tall gray-brown trunk, the pale pink buds would be open, revealing their pearly interiors and spilling that amazing fragrance into the hot summer night.

And all the people would say, Ahhhh !
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Pat in east TN said...

I have never heard of such a plant, but what beautiful flowers and what a nice story about your grandparents and the one they had ... ahhhh!

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Pat! Check out the link I just added in the first line for some amazing photos of these flowers by a real photographer.

Susan M. Bell said...

What a beautiful flower. Too bad it only blooms once a year, and then at night. But, that rarity kind of adds to the beauty.