THE CACTUS FLOWERS

 

The world has become too distressing to think about. So this week The Reverend retreats into his garden to find solace amongst his plants. So may you all.

bloom and cactus

The Cactus Flowers

 

An un-named and little regarded cactus in my garden has recently repaid my years of neglect by producing one of the most spectacular flowers I’ve seen.

 

I’d put it on a garden bench about seven years ago and since then it has been quietly sending out tentacles everywhere. Its an Epiphyte, one of those tree-climbing, dangly, crawl across the ground sort of cacti. Not a desert variety, Epiphytes are found in the moister environment of the tropical jungles. They often grow in the forks of trees where humus collects.

Like all cacti though, epiphytes adopt a very stripped down plant form. No leaves or even spikes or any other major features, just little areoles running along the ridges.

This cactus is basically just a rectangularish tube that grows in segments like thick green spaghetti. Break a bit off and stick it into the ground and off it goes. A new segment will grow from where you broke it off too. It sends out many aerial roots that blindly seek for nourishment.

octo cactus

Now after seven years, for some unknown reason it had decided the time is propitious for flowering.

About a month ago I noticed a little cotton bud sized knob of fur. This slowly grew into the size of a cotton ball. As the days and weeks passed it slowly elongated,

This tuft of wool heralded the flower to come

This tuft of wool heralded the flower to come

and assumed the shape of a fleshy, purple phallus. This resemblance only became more marked as time passed.

something weird happening here

something weird happening here

Reaching its full length

Reaching its full length

I also noticed that the ants seemed attracted to it. They were always exploring its length and trying to find a way in. This made me think that I had an enormous Stapelia like “rotten-meat-smell” flower about to bloom. Stapelia, though actually a succulent rather than a cactus, bore some resemblance to my mystery cactus, in that it likewise is a four sided elongated shape, though rather than being a climber, it grows upwards in bunches of “fingers”.

Somewhat to my relief the flower ended up having no discernible scent at all, though clearly the ants thought otherwise.

And the ants look for a way in

And the ants look for a way in

I was correct in my assumption however, that it would be a night bloomer, like its spectacular cousin Selenicereus Grandiflorus, sometimes known as the “Queen of the Night”. This familiar tree-climber regularly blossoms on full moon nights in the summer, producing creamy white flowers up to 12 inches across. These flowers last but a single night and by the dawn they are starting to droop and fade.

As the sun sets the flower opens..

As the sun sets the flower opens..

..and opens..

..and opens..

However my little unknown Epiphyte ended up destroying my expectations by eventually flowering on the night of the New Moon.

“What the hell flowers when theres no moon in the sky?!,” I demanded rhetorically of my Personal Assistant, “it’s pitch black!

Nothing can even see it. It hasn’t even got any scent! Is this any way to propagate?!”

..and opens..

..and opens..

Clearly the whole reproduction-by-seed issue was not important to this particular cactus. Why would a plant that will grow from any little bit that breaks off need seeds anyway? Its whole flowering cycle was probably a left over from its dim genetic past. Like the banana, I theorised, it probably didn’t even have seeds anymore. Maybe, just now and then, it feels like flowering purely for the sake of it, for it’s own sly, secret pleasure on a dark and moonless night.

Or maybe it’s just confused by the street lights.

and there you go..

and there you go..

fronds

Inside each flower a whole garden lurks!

Inside each flower a whole garden lurks!

Whatever. I was on hand to witness its brief blossoming. The next morning the stalk hung limp, exhausted. It had gone from tumescent to flaccid in one night. Such is life.

from tumescent to flaccid; the morning after

from tumescent to flaccid; the morning after

Over the next week or so the flower stem slowly shrivelled up from the tip first, as though it were withdrawing all that energy back into its body now that its purpose was done. Eventually the dried and wizened stalk fell to the ground. When I opened the husk I was surprised to find it had seeds after all.

finished flower

That’s why I like Cacti. They just sit there for years, quietly sucking up the sun and then one day out of the blue they do something weird and you never look at them the same again.

night bloom 2

***

money see 2JPIGred

***

!!!!!

The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet an an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe and President of the Kurilpa Poets.

Results may vary.

***

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~ by reverendhellfire on February 9, 2014.

8 Responses to “THE CACTUS FLOWERS”

  1. Fascinating botanical narrative about your cactius! Made me want to have one…

  2. Enjoyed reading the whole episode of the cactus flower. It’s different stages of growth are very fascinating. The flower itself is a beauty. Thanks for sharing a lovely post with us. Take care and God bless.

  3. what a beautiful flower !!!

  4. Thanks for the photos and the text, reverend. What an unusual event in the life of a garden! Seven years, then a new moon, and a flower! Then a shriveling into seed.

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