We had a happening in our little Langley alley the other night. Neighbors converged in the dark to witness a Selenicereus grandiflorus bloom, the one night of the year the rather inauspicious looking plant opens its huge, exotic flowers. This wonder of the plant world is known as "Queen of the Night" or "Vanilla Cactus" as well as by its common name of "Nightblooming Cereus."
The flowers are larger than your hand, as frankly luscious as a Georgia O'Keeffe painting, and as lavishly scented as a Casablanca lily. The fragrance is deeply, richly tropical with hints of vanilla and nutmeg, and it filled the house with its perfume.
The plant's owner said the fragrance had awakened her other years just in time to see her plant bloom. The flower's scent is so heady that it must draw pollinating moths from miles around, perpetuating itself despite its brief bloom time. But what possible ecological adaption is involved here? Seems anti-Darwinian...
There's nothing lovely about the plant itself - it's tall, gangly, droopy, and oddly enough, in the cactus family. Do you remember in Barbara Kingsolver's novel "The Bean Trees" when Turtle and her family went to a neighbor's house to celebrate the night blooming cereus? I'll have to read the novel again...last night felt like a fictional experience.
Really, it was the most amazing thing to walk down a dark alley, go into a little room in which this flower which seemed more fauna than flora, more creature than flower, was showing off for a few hours before it closed its blooms back up and lapsed into quietude for the next 364 days.