Side Trip: Night Blooming Cereus in Paradise

Several weeks ago Joe and Pauline Dudek, neighbors of ours, mentioned that their night blooming cereus would be blooming in the very near future.  They explained that the cereus blooms but one night of the year and that they had missed last year's bloom.  They asked us to help them watch the tree and promised a great celebration if we could pinpoint the magic night.

First, a word about the night blooming cereus - it  is a very ordinary looking cactus-type plant.  It climbs up trees and has bloom pods hanging off it that look remarkably like cat hairballs.  It's hard to imagine that such a homely plant can produce such spectacular blossoms.

                                                                                                                                                                                                           Alice and I walk our dogs every evening and we changed our normal route to pass by the Dudek's house.  On the evening of Monday, June 23, we noticed that one of the blooms was trying to open.  On Tuesday morning I dropped by the Dudek's and told them that we were forecasting Tuesday night as " the great event".  They invited us down for a "Cereus Party" at 8:30 p.m.   We arrived promptly as the cirrus was just starting to open.  By 9:00 p.m., the cirrus was in full bloom!  Wine was poured, food was set out, pictures were taken, and the Joe, the proud "Cereus Parent", felt obliged to roust the neighbors. 

By 9:30 p.m. the entire tree was in bloom and it was spectacular!  It's hard to describe the beauty of this plant and the effect that it can have on a gathering.  It's absolutely spellbinding.

The Night Blooming Cereus- fully opened. Our hosts, Joe and Pauline Dudek.
Alice and Me. Coast Guard parents, Al and Ellen Ramirez

2004 - The Party Continues

On Sunday, June 7, 2004,  Joe Dudek visited our house in a highly agitated state.  He explained that he had scheduled himself for a knee replacement for the following day and that he was concerned that the cereus might bloom while he was in the hospital.  He asked me to keep an eye on the tree and to be sure to get pictures if it bloomed before he had recovered.

Joe had the operation as scheduled and they almost had to strap him down to keep him from checking out early to monitor the progress of his beloved cereus.  Finally on Thursday, June 10, 2004, he checked out of the hospital and hobbled home.  As luck would have it, the tree bloomed that night.  I came down at dusk with my camera to catch the first blooms opening.  Joe's wife, Pauline, and a few neighbors held an impromptu gathering to celebrate the event.  By 9:00 pm the cereus was in full bloom.  Meanwhile, Joe, who was in great discomfort, was taking a nap.  The consensus was that he should be allowed to sleep and that we would resume the full-blown yearly party in 2005.  Joe will have to wait another year to view this most amazing plant that lies dormant all year and then blooms only one or two nights in total darkness.  Pictures of the 2004 blooming follow:

The First Bloom


Trunk of the tree as blooms start to open.

Graham and Ellen Thomson visit as the first blooms open.

Cirrus 2006 - The Best Bloom Yet

This was an interesting year for the cereus.  We had about six weeks of drought before the bloom and things were not looking good.  On about June 4, there was a partial bloom with 12 blossoms at the most.  At this point there was some conjecture that there would not be a full bloom.  The buds were tiny, and they looked more like pussy willow buds than the magnificent cereus buds.   Joe's wife, Pauline, and my wife, Alice, were the naysayer's, thinking that this would be a lost year.  Joe and I knew in our hearts that the cereus wouldn't let us down. 

Between June 3 and June 7, the buds grew at least three inches.  The final surprise came on the night of June 7, when the blooms finally popped out.  There were easily twice the blossoms of previous years, with some estimating that there were 800 blooms. 

This year a neighbor provided one final bit of information - this cirrus plant is over 30 years old.

The main trunk, taken at about 9:15 pm, as the blossoms were starting to open.

Looking up the tree at partially opened blossoms.

Looking up, beyond where the tree branches out into two parts.

Joe Dudek, proud cereus parent, and me Al and Myrna Davis
Bill Tapp, and his daughter, Becky Chip and Ginger Jones
Dave and Bonnie Ruth Dusan and Mirka Sljivic
Mirka, Joe and Pauline Dudek Master gardener Yvonne Swanson and Bonnie Ruth

As usual, our hosts, Joe and Pauline provided ample refreshments and the blooming was celebrated well into the evening.


Night Blooming Cereus 2009:  As is the case in our fair city of St. Petersburg, the one thing that can be counted on every year is the blooming of Joe and Pauline's fabulous Cereus.  This year, probably because of the 14 inches of rain we got in May, the Cereus got a little confused and half the blooms came out a week early.  This made it hard to plan a gala event, but a small gathering was held nonetheless.  Joe asked that I publish  a timed sequence of one bloom.  Here is the sequence beginning at 8:15pm and ending at 9:15pm on June 11, 2009:


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