Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Queen of the Night for one night only

Just yesterday I wrote about our Queen of the Night cactus (Cereus hildmannianus subsp. hildmannianus) getting ready to bloom. At that point I wasn’t sure when it would happen. However, when I checked yesterday afternoon, it became clear that the largest bud was going to open up very soon.

What then unfolded within a matter of hours was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. I had seen photos of cereus flowers, but this one was even more beautiful. The fact that this was going to be a one-night performance gave it a bittersweet note.

Here is a chronological photo diary of this special event:

110815_Cereus-hildmannianus-413pm
4:13pm
110815_Cereus-hildmannianus-700pm
7:00pm
110815_Cereus-hildmannianus-704pm
7:04pm

By 8pm, the flower was completely open. It was huge, 7 in. across.

110815_Cereus-hildmannianus-809pm
8:09pm
110815_Cereus-hildmannianus-811pm
8:11pm
110815_Cereus-hildmannianus-812pm
8:12pm
110815_Cereus-hildmannianus-818pm
8:18pm
110815_Cereus-hildmannianus-821pm
8:21pm
110815_Cereus-hildmannianus-824pm
8:24pm

I checked again at 10pm, and the flower looked the same as in the last photo above...

…and it looked that way at 7:25am this morning. I wonder who visited it during the night?

110816_Cereus-hildmannianus-725am
7:25am
110816_Cereus-hildmannianus-726am
7:26am
110816_Cereus-hildmannianus-727am
7:27am

When I checked again at 8:40am (it had warmed up into the mid-60s by then), I finally saw some insect activity: small striped bees that are native to our area, as well as some fat carpenter bees. While the flower didn’t smell all that attractive to me (more vegetal instead of floral), it must have smelled and tasted just fine to the bees.

110816_Cereus-hildmannianus-840am
8:40am

By 11:00am, the flower had closed completely.

110816_Cereus-hildmannianus-1126am
11:26am

There are three buds left on this cactus segment, and they appear to be equally far along in their development. They may open up tonight, but tomorrow night is more likely.

Many people think that columnar cacti like this one are plain and uninteresting. Yes, they do look unassuming, but when they produce flowers, they outdo just about any other plant out there!

4 comments:

  1. wow!! That's soo pretty!! I didn't know we had that plant...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very cool, and almost a perfect record of its progress. I saw "almost" because if you were really dedicated you would sit out there in the dark and see what sort of (moths? bats?) visited.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fleeting moments of beauty Gerhard, well captured! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. The other three blossoms opened up last night. They're still perfect (7:10am) but will fade fast.

    Now I've got to wait another year for a repeat. But some things *are* worth waiting for!

    ReplyDelete