At one point, I had 17 buds (from 2 plants) at different stages of development. For weeks, it was a blooming bonanza! The other interesting thing that happened was the night my mother passed away. I had never had more than one night of blooms. The night I lost my Mom, a cereus flower bloomed and died for three consecutive nights. It felt like a 3-night tribute to my mother’s life.
Nightblooming cereus landed in my world in San Diego in 1999 when my daughter received an end-of-the-year gift from her kindergarten teacher. In a 10-inch clay pot stood a couple of succulent leaves in a bed of moss, a homelier plant I could not have imagined. Because of the way my child’s teacher handed it to me when I got to school on the last day, looking me in the eye with not a small bit of mischief, I was intrigued. She told me to keep it in the sun and to water it every few weeks.
For years the leaves didn’t do much. They grew a bit larger, turned a little greener. At least six years went by. (No Miracle-Gro® for that ugly bugger.) We moved to a new house. The cactus-like leaves grew tall and maintained their mostly-knarly, beat-up looking exteriors. They were pock-marked with dried spots that had the look of healed wounds. One day I noticed a bud coming out of the side of one of the leaves, which was now mostly upright and stiff. The bud was visibly larger each day. I kept an eye on the unusually fast growth rate.
I won’t go on with details of the daily changes, but they were dramatic, reminiscent of horror films starring giant plants that become full-grown overnight. The bud became very large, about the size of my hand if I closed my fingers to imitate the shape. When the blossom is completely open, the flower can be larger than my open hand with fingers spread wide. It is extremely large considering it is growing from the side of a leaf. The last photo is a bud half open.
Next post I will include photo close-ups of fully-opened flowers, the incredible beauty I’ve seen during several bloomings. The first flower I watched open, I checked it about every 10-15 minutes because it was changing that fast. It was half open about 8 p.m. and was fully open by 9 p.m. I completely missed a few openings because I had no idea it would happen so quickly.
I never stayed up to see how long many hours they remain open, but it is mere hours before they begin to fade. When the stems hold a blooming flower, they curve up. The stems and blossoms are so large, curving up doesn’t look possible. By morning, they are completed wilted shut and drooping. From the beginning of the finger-sized buds to the full flower, it is like nothing I have ever seen. The first photo (sorry, cell-phone image) is 3 buds at 2 weeks. Notice that they are almost as big as the narrow leaf from which they grow.