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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Queen of the Night

Last night we were treated to a special show.  Five buds on the night blooming cereus, also  known as Queen of the Night, opened.  For the first few years that it bloomed there were usually only one or two blooms  opening at a time, but as it has matured we have been treated to a profusion of blooms all at once.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this plant, it’s a member of the cactus family, and although it is often called a night blooming cereus, it is not in the Cereus genus but is actually an epiphyte, Epiphyllum oxypetalum.  While  Cereus are tall cacti that grow in the ground, Epiphyllum are flat stemmed, somewhat sprawling epiphytes that live in trees. It is, for most of its life, a rather plain and somewhat ugly plant. But when you notice a tiny bud forming on one of its flat  branches,  you know the ugly duckling is about to become a beautiful swan and  you’re in for  quite  a show. Here’s a tiny bud  forming.
When the buds are fully formed  and ready to bloom, they begin to turn upward on their stems. Once the sun goes down and dusk descends, the show begins and lasts well into the night. The pink sepals  begin to raise up  like fingers,  bending back as the creamy white petals unfurl, revealing the  flower’s delicate anthers and stigma.  As the sepals and petals  unfurl,  the flower emits a wonderful heady fragrance. As the sun comes up, the  blooms close, and by morning, the once beautiful flowers hang,  spent and exhausted, on limp peduncles. Here are some pics I’ve taken of the sequence of events, both from  last night’s performance and some earlier ones. The last pic is  of the little frog who was perched on the garden hose  last night providing background music for the show.    

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