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Day 9: Worth the wait

Epiphyllum oxypetallum

There was lots of excitement in our house this evening because of a flower. This is not just any flower. It is the flower produced by an Epiphyllum oxypetallum cactus. My husband always prefers to call plants by their botanical names because as he always says to me “that’s their name”. I suppose there are some things we learn by osmosis from the people we live with. However, if you’re not into botanical names, this plant is more commonly referred to as Queen of the Night or Night-blooming Cereus although this latter name is not technically correct; the cereus cacti are different to epiphyllum cacti even though their flowers look similar.

For 364 days of the year this plant looks like a scrawny bit of cactus which has these long flattened rubbery looking leaves with wavy edges. As it turns out, I have discovered that these things that look like leaves are not in fact leaves at all – they are flat leaf like stems. This plant also has no spiky or hairy bits like many other cacti. Anyhow, in my opinion, this plant is pretty ugly and I could never understand why my husband loved it so much; that was until the first time I saw one of its flowers.

This plant produces flowers which open and close within the time span of a single night. The flower opens in the early evening and remains like this until the morning light arrives and then it closes. If you don’t notice the flower when it opens you miss out on the experience – there is no second chance.

For one night every year when the flower opens the beauty of it takes your breath away as does its intoxicating fragrance which permeates the whole house. You can only smell its scent during the evening it is open.

Our plants produce these unbelievable white flowers. They are huge flowers when they are open – as big as a stretched out hand. The centre of the flower has a large number of stamen. The petals are delicate and look almost translucent.

We were fortunate this year to have two flowers bloom from one plant. I took a lot of photos of different views of these flowers. I love this particular photo because it captures the heart of the flower.

This plant will bloom when it is ready whether anyone notices it or not. I am so glad I got to see it and smell it. I wonder how many things in life we miss out on because we are not observant or even aware or worse still, we just don’t care.

I am also reminded that we all have different gifts; different things we can do or offer. The difference between us and this plant is that we are able to choose whether or not we will bloom, when we will do it, and how long for.

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