Today have our first contribution from Official Website Artist™ Kelly Houle, who, after six years of waiting, was finally able to see a night-blooming cereus, a sporadically-blooming flower on a cactus native to northern Mexico and the American Southwest. There are noms in the report, too. Kelly’s words are indented:
Here are some photos I took last night in Tucson during “Bloom Night“. It’s an event centered around the collective blooming of the largest public collection of night- blooming cereus (Peniocereus greggii), put on by Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens, a hidden gem of Tucson.You can sign up on the Tohono Chul website to get updates each year leading up to the event. The park takes great pains to have food, drinks, and luminarias lighting the path on the special night with only a few hours notice. Yesterday at 11am the announcement was made that “The Queen of the Night” would be making her appearance, so I packed a bag and hustled down to Tucson to be there for the mass flowering.
First, a lovely dinner in the Tohono Chul Garden Bistro—the cool salmon chop salad sounded good on a 111-degree afternoon!
Here is a bad photo of the Peniocereus greggii for sale in the Tohono Chul Botanical Garden greenhouse. You might not be able to tell from the picture, but if you’ve seen one of these you know that it’s best described as a clump of thin, spiky cactus sticks in a pot. The cost was $100 for these mature, ready-to-bloom plants, with smaller, even less attractive spiky sticks going for $20. I may go back for one of these. How have they even survived?
JAC: The Tucson Gardner website shows a picture of this species from the Tucson Botanical Gardens:
A full moon (hiding behind a tree) and lots of bats and nighthawks (not pictured, don’t strain your eyes) set the scene for a presentation on the science of predicting such an event and an oral reading of the Papago Tohono O’odham legend of the night-blooming cereus.
Mourning dove [Zenaida macroura] on a Seussian desert century plant (A. americana, possibly?):
Luminarias border the winding desert paths for the very long line of visitors. At sunset it was probably just starting to dip below 100 degrees.
The spectacular blooms open on only one night a year. Nobody knows what triggers almost all of them to do this on the same night. Temperature does not seem to be the cause. It’s a scientific mystery yet to be solved.
There’s a book about such flowers called The Evening Garden, Flowers and Fragrance from Dusk till Dawn by Peter Loewer. It has a nice chapter on night-blooming cactuses. Maybe it will inspire people to plant “moon gardens” with night-blooming plants that attract moths and bats!
I’ll add that Kelly has put some new paintings, prints, miniature art books, and “Darwin cards” up for sale on her eBay site, so go have a look. For many of the items, a part of the proceeds goes to the Official Website Charity™, Doctors Without Borders, and most of the other art items benefit other good charities.