Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Night-blooming Cereus

We have three quite different plants called night-blooming cereus in the yard, and all they really have in common is the shape and color and behavior of their flowers. One look at the flower (which looks like the one in Little Shop of Horrors) and you might speculate (and as I intend to prove below) that it is actually an alien of some sort, body-snatching life forms on earth at random and then blooming only at night as a way to communicate with each other in their long-term plan to body-snatch humans and dogs.

The first of these plants is the one that is most-commonly referred to as night-blooming cereus (the word cereus means candle in Latin). This is Selenicereus grandiflorus, also known as queen of the night, large-flowered cactus, sweet-scented cactus and vanilla cactus. For most of the year this plant is no more than a green stick climbing up our punk tree. But in the spring the stick makes a valiant effort and produces a flowery appendage much larger than expected (though I am reluctant to point this out), a flower that surely has a mind of its own.

The second of these night-blooming cereus(s) has been growing in our side yard for years. This one is commonly known as a hedge cactus (Cereus peruvianus), probably 30 feet tall, and its flowers are pollinated by bats (which are the slaves and minions of these alien, body-snatcher flowers). Like the others, this plant is restructuring itself to feed off of human and dog blood.

The third plant belongs to a different species altogether (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) but is still often referred to as a cereus. Its common names are Dutchman's pipe cactus and orchid cactus . The body-snatching process went awry on this one, and the sensuous flower grows directly from the side of the leaf, clear proof of alien origin. How else can you explain such a thing?

In India this third plant is known as bakawali, which (as you surely remember) was the name of a Bengali fairy (or extraterrestrial) who centuries ago won the heart of Prince Tajulmulk, a love story that has served as the basis for more than a few movies from the '30s and '40s. In reality, the Bakawali flower and the fairy were one and the same, though we can only speculate about how this romance actually came to flower. Here's the G rated version, with maidens preparing Bakawali for the prince (oh, the horror).

1 comment:

  1. You need to take a better picture of the third cereus so you can see how weird it is blooming off the side of the leaf. It's a strange one.