Buzzards glide in a cloudless sky; rock squirrels hurry on the ground.
Lost in the shadow of the prickly pear, the Cereus makes no sound.
A lazy cactus with sprawling stems, supported by kind neighbors,
Watching and waiting for the perfect time,to begin its secret labors.
Coaxed by one grand sunset, each Cereus bud unfolds.
Delicate white petals, with centers of soft gold.
A fragrance like vanilla, spills forth from every core
luring a local sphinx moth to pollinate…before…
The first light of the morning forever shuts each flower.
Without complaint or question, they meet their final hour.
The secret of the Cereus, revealed one moonlit night:
Fulfill the maker’s purpose inside the span of life.
Buzzards glide in the cloudless sky; rock squirrels hurry on the ground.
Life resumes in the desert heat; but the Cereus makes no sound.
I wrote the poem “The Secret of the Cereus” two years ago. Like many busy people I’ve complained about how little time I seem to have. What if you only had twelve hours to accomplish your mission in life? That’s how much time a Cereus has. This flower only blooms one night out of the year. So what is the Cereus doing the rest of the year? Getting ready!
Although the Night-Blooming Cereus can be cultivated in tropical areas, its natural habitat is the desert of the American southwest. According to Desert USA, the Cereus is rarely noticed due to its plain characteristics. A member of the cactus family, the Cereus grows in the shadow of other desert shrubs. It has sparse, gray, twiggy stems which break easily. These stems can grow anywhere from four to eight feet in length. The Cereus can look like it’s dead, but it isn’t. That’s where the secret comes in. All year it is preparing to bloom!
On that one special night groups of Cereus all bloom at the same time. This event makes it possible for the sphinx moth to cross pollinate between flowers so fruit can be produced. The Cereus produces a red elliptical fruit that is actually edible!
I’ve never seen a wild Cereus in bloom. Tohono Chul Park near Tuscon, Arizona is reported to have the largest collection of night-blooming Cereus in the U.S. The park hosts Bloom Night which is open to the public. Imagine walking at night on a trail in the desert. Above you the sky is filled with millions of stars, and at your feet the path is lined with luminaries. In the distance, the cry of a coyote breaks the silence sending chills up your spine. The air is heavy with the sweet fragrance like vanilla, and then you see scores of beautiful white blooms glowing in the moonlight! Bloom Night is number one on my bucket list!
Of course timing is very important when it comes to witnessing Bloom Night. It can occur anywhere between the end of May and late July. If you go to the park’s website, you can sign up for the bloom watch. You’ll receive emails to notify you of the progress of the Cereus blooms. It might be something to plan a vacation around, providing you own your own plane!
Ever since I learned about the night-blooming Cereus I try to not complain about a shortage of time. After all, this flower only lives for one night. It accomplishes what it was created to do, at a time when no one may notice, and it never complains. Do you have a destination you have always wanted to visit, or something you would like to witness? Leave a comment and tell me about it.