Sunday, September 09, 2007

Queen of the Night

There is a Chinese saying - "昙花一现", which is used to describe things that only exist for a short while. "昙花" refers to Epiphyllum oxypetalum, a lovely flower which only blooms at night, thus giving it its common name, Queen of the Night.

The last time I saw this flower was more than 10 years ago, when the plant at my place had four flowers. And yesterday, I finally got to see it again.

We were really excited when my brother's epiphyllum produced 4 flower buds more than a week ago.

Sadly, two of the buds just wilted and dropped off, but fortunately the other survived! For the past one week, we had been speculating when the flowers will blossom.

Yesterday, my brother (who lives in the same block), called my mum and said that it looked like one of the flower buds was blooming!

Still feeling rather excited, I went down to my brother's place around 10pm.

It was BEAUTIFUL! I could smell the sweet fragrance in the air. Forgot to bring down a torch, and had to borrow from my brother in order to take a good photo of it. My camera couldn't focus well in low light conditions.

Here's the side view. It's in full blossom yet, probably about 70 percent.

So why does Epiphyllum oxypetalum blooms at night? The epiphyllum is actually a cactus, supposedly originated from the deserts in Central and South America. As the deserts are very hot and dry in the day, it is believed that the epiphyllum blooms at night as it is cooler and will reduce water loss. There are, however, some species of epiphyllums that bloom in the day, especially the hybrids which produce brightly coloured flowers.

After taking a few photos, I went back home. Just after midnight, I went down again. This time round, I remembered my torch :)

It was almost in full bloom now. The word epiphyllum in Greek means "upon the leaf", and you can see from the photo above that the flower did appear to bloom directly on the leave.

Taking a closer look, you can see the pretty starry stigma, and the yellow pollens on the anthers.

Lots of tiny insects were attracted by the sweet smell, and many had gathered within the flower. These were the potential pollinators that might carry the pollens to other blossoming epiphyllum.

I went down about 2am again to take another look.

The outer petals were now stretching all the way back.

Just behind the flower, another bud was quietly waiting for its turn to be the queen.

And tonite, I'm going down again to witness the crowning of this new queen, who will also rule for just one night...


Just went down to my brother's place around 8pm.

The one which bloomed last night (front) has already withered.

The one at the back looked like it's all ready for a spectacular bloom later tonite!

Indeed, when I went down around 11pm, it has started blooming.

However, the process seems to be slower than the previous one, which was like 70 percent opened when I saw it around 10pm plus.

This one probably only about 65 percent at 11pm.

Anyway, I went down again after midnight.

While the petals still hadn't opened fully like the one in the previous night, it's still spectacular!

But I know that by morning, it will wither like the previous flower in the background.

Still, it was the queen, for tonight.... Even if it's only one night....


~mantamola~ said...

How abt the one from KB? Is it doing well?

Ron Yeo said...

Yup! Still very much alive :)

Ivan said...

Very nice flowers!

As to why the flowers bloom only at night, could it be because in its native habitat, this particular plant is pollinated by moths or bats?

- Ivan

Ron Yeo said...

Hmm... Personally, as per highlighted in my entry, I think I agree more with the resources I've read that the main reason for epiphyllum blooming only for a few hours in the evening is to avoid the heat of the day, and the ultra coldness at night in the desert.

Being a large and sweet smelling flower, I would think it should be able to attract day pollinators if it were to bloom in the day as well, and we can see such examples in the day-blooming epiphyllum hybrids actually.

But of course while the desert heat and coldness may be the main reason, other factors may contribute to this as well.

For one thing, I would assume the pollinators contributed to the colour of the flower - it is white so that it is easier to spot in the dark.

ahhenggorilla said...

you should go take a degree in botany, my friend. :)

Ron Yeo said...

Hey yx, how did u end up here? This is such an old entry :P

Irineu garcia said...

Linda aqui no brasil exitem algumas especieis, realmente e maravilhoso, parabens pelo previlegio de ter compartilhado com esta joia.........