Gift from a Stranger
Many years ago, Ken came home from a bike ride with a hunk of cactus strapped to his bike.
Ken rides at night in the summer, because it is cooler. During one of his night rides, he noticed a huge cactus covered with 6-inch wide, fragrant, white flowers. Another time, he rode during the day, saw the Lake Worth, FL, woman who owned it and stopped to compliment her on the flowers he had seen. She grabbed a saw and cut off a piece of her cactus and gave it to him with instructions to stick it in the ground and it watch it grow.
It did, indeed, grow. In less than two years, it was a single 10-foot tall cactus. It stayed that way until pieces of it snapped off in one of the hurricanes of 2004. We took the pieces and stuck them in the ground in the farthest corner of the front yard.
In a couple of years, there were several 10-foot tall cactuses that began to flower and produce fruit.
Night Blooming Cereus
Night blooming cereus is a term used for many types of night blooming cactuses. The flowers of all varieties of night-blooming cactuses are white. The white color reflects the moonlight and attracts the pollinators. Some flowers have a fragrance. Most sources say the flowers last only one night and die when the sun rises.
That is not the case with cactuses in our yard. The flowers open each night by about 10 PM, close up before the sun rises and open again the next night.
Two nights ago, I returned home around 10 PM to find that the buds I had seen earlier on the cactus had opened, and there were huge white flowers covering the branches.
In the Daylight
The following morning, I checked the cactus for blooms. The blooms were gone, but the original buds were still there. The flowers had closed up overnight.
A difference was noticed in the buds of flowers that had closed overnight and those that had not yet bloomed.
White petals could be seen inside the partially opened buds of the ones that opened the night before. The ones that were yet to bloom were tightly closed.
Last night, the cactus was full of white flowers, again. I took more pictures, and upon comparison, the pictures show flowers in the same place as the previous night, as well as, new buds that had opened.
Add to that, there were no dead flowers on the ground anywhere. No doubt, that the same flowers are opening and closing. Pictures are the proof.
A Bit of Cactus Trivia
Because the flowers are only open at night, sphinx moths* and nectar-feeding bats rather than bees are the pollinators.
(* a side note: It is ironic that sphinx moths are necessary for pollination. Sphinx moths are the adult form of hornworm caterpillars… like the ones found on my tomatoes last season.)
Once the flower is pollinated, it wilts and dies and the green fruit bud sets.
There are a lot of pictures with this post. I just couldn’t help myself. Flowers that bloom only at night are fascinating, and they are beautiful!
Click on any picture to make it larger. Use the arrows on the left and right to move through the pictures in the post.