Archive for Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Unique blooms

Night-blooming plant makes its annual statement

August 3, 2005

It could be said that former Tonganoxie resident Pat Black is serious about her night-blooming cereus. So serious, in fact, that she had a party Thursday to celebrate its blooming.

The buds on the unique plant -- a variety of the cactus family -- only bloom for one night, usually in June or July, so they can be pollinated by night-flying insects such as moths. The blooms fold back up by morning, never to open again.

When the buds on Black's plant set a few weeks ago, she decided to have a "night-blooming cereus party" and promised to call some friends and neighbors to witness the event when it looked as if the plant would bloom.

Black's plant was started from one her mother owned. When her mother died in 1961, she was given the unusual plant. She kept that plant for many years and started a cutting from her mother's plant more than 30 years ago.

"It's not very attractive," Black said. "I inherited it because no one else wanted it."

The cereus plant's "leaves" are large, flattened stems with fluted or rippled edges. New stems grow from the edges as the vine-like stems flatten. Some produce more stems and others produce buds.

Black's cereus plant had not produced any buds since she moved to Eudora from Tonganoxie almost four years ago. Black said she thought it might have been in shock from the move because it bloomed nearly every year when she lived in Tonganoxie.

One of the four buds opened Wednesday night, and Black thought at least one of the remaining three would open Thursday evening. So she made the promised phone calls earlier in the day, and later in the evening, guests began arriving. Some traveled from Tonganoxie for the get-together.

By 9 p.m., the three remaining blooms were beginning to open. About an hour later, a sweet fragrance similar to jasmine or gardenia permeated the room. By 10:45, most of the large, white buds were fully opened.

The plant is also known as the "Queen of the Night" and "Christ in the Cradle," because it is said to symbolize the Christmas story. The cluster of straw-colored stamens in the center of the bloom resembles the manger, the clumps of stamens on each side signify Mary and Joseph, the two stamens at the top represent the open arms of an angel, and the star-shaped pistil represents the star of Bethlehem.

When her plant finished blooming Thursday night, Black plucked the blossoms from the stems and handed them to those who wanted them.

Black said she was happy other people shared the unusual event with her.

"It was a very enjoyable evening," Black said.

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