Summertime Ritual

cereusAnd no, I’m not referring to the wine, although that figures in plenty of good rituals! This is the latest — and possibly the last — bloom for the summer on our night-blooming cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum), and we’re bringing this one to a friend to enjoy tonight.

For most of the year, this gangly houseplant sprawls in front of a sunny window, periodically sending up three- to four-foot shoots, possibly looking for a tree to climb so it can get more sun. Then on a few nights in the summer, a stupendous blossom or two will bloom, filling the air with sweet fragrance. By morning the flower has completely wilted.

cereus2Dutchman’s Pipe and Queen of the Night are two common names for this plant. It is native to Central and South America, where it can grow either in the soil or as an epiphyte. In India, it is called Brahma Kamalam, after the Hindu god of creation, Lord Brahma, and is said that the wishes of those who pray when it is blooming will be fulfilled.

The scientific name is very descriptive. Epiphyllum refers to the fact that the flowers originate on the “leaves” (actually the flattened parts of the stem); oxypetalum refers to the pointed petals, of which there are many. All in all, it’s one gorgeous flower!

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