Some plants produce flowers throughout the year, and then there are many seasonal flower plants. However, a rare variety of cactus flower blooms just once a year at night.
The ‘Queen of the Night’
Spotting the plants and witnessing the cactus flowers bloom can be an enthralling experience. The cactus Epiphyllum oxypetalum, a ceroid cactus, is commonly known as the Night-Blooming Cereus. The trumpet-shaped, waxy cactus flowers are white and exude a pleasant scent. This plant, known for blooming just once every year at night, is also commonly referred to as the ‘Queen of the Night.’
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Receive selected content straight into your inbox.
The cactus flower blooms in the summertime and usually under a full moon. The petals unfold, and a strong scent emits from the cactus flowers. The Night-Blooming Cereus may not be seen easily as it grows in remote desert regions. What may make viewers amazed is that the blooming process takes place quite fast. The blooming is a smoothly uniform process.
The name night-blooming cereus covers several closely linked ceroid cacti found in the forests of Central and South America and parts of Mexico. While the cactus flowers on a plant bloom together for one day, this has to do with boosting the prospect of pollination.
A fragrant cactus flower attractive to night-time pollinators
The Epiphyllum oxypetalum has a fragrant blossom, and the size equals that of the head of a newborn human baby. The petals start withering much before sunlight appears. People living in tropical zones where this plant grows natively often host parties to witness the blooming of the fragrant cactus flower.
Typically, one plant has dozens of blossoms, and they bloom almost simultaneously. How this happens is still not clear. However, the blooming occurs when several factors such as the humidity, temperature, and rain are just right. In addition, these plants adhere to a lunar cycle.
The fragrant cactus flowers attract night-time pollinators such as Hawk moths. As the cactus flowers bloom at night, the competition for pollination is minimal or non-existent. The bloom time is usually between sunset and midnight. The petals unfold within 1 to 3 hours. Its aroma can be enchanting, resembling the aroma of magnolia or gardenia.
Its cultivation spread to Europe and the US
The Night-Blooming Cereus was possibly found by European sailors exploring South America around 250 years ago. Later, its cultivation became commonplace in countries like the UK and spread to France and Germany. However, it was in the 1920s that the plant was brought to U.S. shores.
Over time, hybrid variants of the cactus have merged on the horizon. You can find variants with a red hue, and a daytime blooming variant is there too. It blends the dragon fruit plant and the original cactus species.
An ingredient in soups and a home remedy
In Vietnam, people cultivate the cactus with pencil cactus for framing support. While its beauty and aroma can be mind-blowing, not many are aware of its culinary usage. It is used with fresh shrimp or lean meat to make a healthy soup. After the cactus flower blooms, it is cut, and the pollen is rinsed off.
The pistil is cut off, and the cactus flower is broken into smaller pieces. Lean pork is used with it. The broth made with the cactus flower has a sweet taste, and the aroma is there too.
The Night-Blooming Cereus can also be used to make dishes that can be used to heal specific ailments. For example, it can be steamed with honey and chicken; the broth is good for healing coughing and asthma. In traditional Chinese medicine, the whole plant has been used for treating several ailments since ancient ages.