Once a year, The Arizona Queen of the Night – known as the Night Blooming Cereus (peniocereus greggii) – puts on a spectacular visual and olfactory show.
Largely unnoticed and ignored, this twiggy-in-appearance tuber demands attention on one special night. Bloom night occurred on June 18 this year, a time when nearly all the wild (and potted) cereuses bloom in unison, blanketing areas of the Arizona desert in a milk-and-honey-sweet perfume.
So captivated am I by this magical flower that it has made its way into my fiction (below). Don’t forget to click to enlarge the images; these photos were taken in my back yard. Two of my six Queens produced three blooms – the largest number yet, from my young plants.
She held her breath and listened. A small crackle, like the page of a book turning, rose from the plant. “Do you hear that?” They looked toward a bulb stirring, as if wind kissed. Maybe it was her own hope moving it. “It’s happening,” she said, the breath catching in her throat. It would take hours for the flowers to fully open. “Look – you can see inside.” She shined the light on the top of the blossom, revealing a tiny opening where the once-converging petals began to pull apart from the tip.
Soon the softball-sized globes would open completely, their petals nearly horizontal, stamen rising to meet the moon. Spurred by sundown, they would quiver under the cool breeze. Then upon sunrise, the white balls would close, the flowers dropping off days later, wilted, returned to the desert floor.
For Readers, Writers, Everyone: Is there beauty in death? Can you think of any novels that explore that theme or instances in nature where a living thing seems too short for this Earth?