Blog: Mother Earth Heals
by Liora Leah

Monster Plants

Last of eight stories in the Yard Notes series, in loving memory of my father. In my backyard, I have two huge cactus plants that only bloom at night, one night per bloom, in the summer. The flowers are gorgeous, white, and very fragrant...

Date:   9/5/2007 3:40:28 AM   ( 8 y ) ... viewed 3360 times
Photograph by Liora Leah July 2006

Monster Plants

Many years ago when my sister and I were kids, the mailman-- knowing how much Dad enjoyed plants--gave him a cutting of what we thought was a succulent. At the time, the potted plant was about 4" in diameter.

After the “succulent” grew larger, Sis and I dubbed it "The Monster Plant" because it grew wildly in its pot, its branches all askew, in no reasonable sense of order. It was unlike any other plant we'd ever seen. And at night, in the dim glow of the outdoor light, the plant's long, thin, green arms created all kinds of creepy shadows on the back patio where it sat.

Over the years, the plant grew so large that Dad divided it into two pots, each about 18" in diameter. Recently, I read an article online about these plants that identify them by scientific name as Epiphyllum (AKA "epi", or "orchid cactus"), and they are actually a cactus, not a succulent! Although we now know their true name, our family continues to call them “Monster Plants". The plants still grow wildly, one with arms over 8 feet tall, and they still cast strange shadows on the backyard patio at night.

Despite their somewhat unusual form, these cacti produce gorgeous flowers during a period of a few weeks every summer. When fully opened, the large blooms are pure white, with a bit of yellow pollen on yellow stamen inside. The flowers have a very potent fragrance that can be quite intoxicating when numbers of them bloom at once. Each flower blooms for one night only; in the morning, each folded-up flower droops off its cactus arm, encased in its pink leafy sheath. The spent flowers soon wither and fall off.

Two summers ago, the plants had what at the time was a record bloom: 13 flowers opened on one night. Yet last July, when Dad was very ill, the cacti outdid themselves; between the two plants, over 50 flowers bloomed on one night!! I went outside to view them, and was so flabbergasted at the overwhelming sight that I cried. The plants, it seemed, were blooming for Dad, as a tribute to him for all of the unspoken love and care he had put into them for over 40 years.



Yard Notes Introduction:  First Things First

First of eight stories in the Yard Notes series: Tools & Sweat

Second story in the series: Grass & Water

Third story:  Dandelions & Snails

Fourth story: Trees & Fence

Fifth story:  Berries & Concrete

Sixth story: Tree Dreams

Seventh story:  Star Jasmine


Photos: Epiphyllum Blooms












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