Friday, August 19, 2011

Night Blooming Cereus

These jungle cacti hang from the balcony in my jungle room (attached greenhouse/solarium) and bloom in the summer. At night. For only one night. Usually when I'm out of town.

It is difficult to keep remembering to check them daily for buds, then to keep checking as the buds grow. They grow fast. And very sneaky. As long slender addenda to the elongated stems that serve as leaves, the buds are anything but obvious. And they hide behind the other foliage in my jungle room. Then, without warning, one night they open and emit the most intoxicating fragrance. It's their one night to attract a moth to pollinate them. They are out of luck in my jungle room but they try anyway.

The photo below was taken as the bud began to open, 9:15 p.m., last night.

Here it is almost fully open 45 minutes later.

I was too tired to stay up for the ultimate opening. The photo below was taken at 8:30 in the morning. The show is over.

At 5 the evening after (I just took the photo below left), the drooping flower still has beauty, in a way, but no fragrance. The first bloom on this plant bloomed two days ago... and I missed it. I usually do. The flower gradually gets more droopy, then turns black, as the ric rac cactus bloom on the right did. The ric rac also blooms one night with a flower almost identical to the cereus... and even harder to find because it hangs from the ceiling. I did not see this ric rac bloom until it looked like it looks now... black. Very frustrating. However, last year I did see blooms and they did not look like the ric rac blooms in the books or on the web, which are red and white. They looked like the cereus, all white. So I suspect my ric rac is a type of orchid cactus masquerading as a ric rac. Who knows. It starts making lots of buds but they almost always turn black before getting any size. I don't know why. The Night-blooming Cereus does not have that problem.

The middle photo above shows the cereus amid the other jungle cacti. The spent bloom is bottom right of that photo. Below is a shot of the ceiling showing the ric rac cactus. The spent, blackened flower is lower left. The leaves in that photo that are not ladder-like are cereus leaves. It is walking across the ceiling now, too, no doubt preparing to flower where I have to break my neck to see it. You can see why Johnny calls this my jungle room.

In July of 2009, the cereus outdid itself with at least 7 blooms. I don't remember how many I saw open. Probably not many. The photo left from 9 p.m., July 15, 2009, shows five spent blooms and at least one about to open (very bottom of the plant). Photo right shows one open at 6:45 the next morning.

It's a spectacular flower, huge and wonderfully fragrant. Maybe if I threw my sleeping bag in the jungle room, I'd be able to watch the whole show. Presuming I had remembered to check each evening to see when a bud was beginning to open.

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