Friday, September 4, 2015

Queen of the Night

And so for nights
we waited, hoping to see
the heavy bud
break into flower.

     "The Night Blooming Cereus"
     Robert Hayden

Our Night Blooming Cereus is again getting ready to bloom. We wait, often, a decade between blooms so this is an event of almost epic proportions. I wrote about this plant in August 2009 (click here to read that blog) and gave its history: this plant goes back nearly a century now.

 The plant last bloomed at the end of July 2009. Actually, it tried to bloom a couple of years ago. Mom bumped the flower and it fell to the floor and both we - and I assume the plant - were too disappointed for another attempt.

 When my grandmother owned this Night Blooming Cereus, she always called it Jesus in the Manger. There are other common names for these members of ceroid cacti: Queen of the Night, Princess of the Night, Honolulu Queen. Wikipedia has a nice entry on this plant. Click here to read it.

 This newest bud began to organize itself on August 13. It begins with a tiny imperfection on the edge of a leaf. It is almost not visible at this stage. Or, as we usually think, it this just another leaf expanding?

 So, now follow below the dated progression of bud to bloom ...

August 13 - the first hint of a bud developing 

August 17 - four days later, it is apparent that the plant is flowering 

August 20 - the bud develops quickly - now there is no doubt

August 24 - early hints of telltale pink begin to infuse the bud 

August 27 - the bud grows heavy enough to hang down 

August 30 - and then it begins to right itself, turning upwards

August 31 - the lovely shade of light pink becomes more evident 

September 1 - the bud continues to lift itself 

September 2 - the bud seems suspended on a goose-neck

September 3 - now the bloom drops to horizontal. "Birth" is tonight?

... and so, on the evening of September 3, the bloom opened. Even in the late afternoon I could see that the end of the flower was slightly opened. Through the remaining hours until dark, the flower expanded, as though it was a white elongated balloon being slowly inflated.
 At 8:30 pm, as I readied to go to bed (and set an alarm as necessary), I shined the flashlight onto our enclosed porch, and there in the dark it was opening its petals. The flower does wait for the dark.

September 3 - about 9 pm 

September 3 - about 9 pm

 So it was 21 days from start to finish. I'm sure the tiny bud we first saw on August 13 was there a few days earlier but too small to be seen (or simply hidden from view). How does a bud go from infinitesimal to this in three weeks? It's an amazing feat of nature, played out on our porch.

September 4 - about 8:30 am - Finished! 

September 4 - the bloom has collapsed in on itself
It's as soft as damp tissue paper and pure white

 Now we return to waiting. Six years? Ten? How long until we see another bloom? There is no hurry with this old plant.

Added later:

 What if we didn't cut the bloom off? I understand the plant will form some sort of red-orange elliptical fruit.that is about three inches long. We'll see ...

September 7


  1. Beautiful and truly amazing and Nature at it's most intricate!

  2. My mother had one in the 50s and 60s. She was so excited to find it in full bloom when she came back for a church meeting about 9-10 pm. I had a nice perfume as i remember. It was white also.