Friday, 4 September 2015

The "Queen of the Night"

Don’t you love those days when you get a message from a friend on social media, and it changes your morning completely.

Well, that’s just what happened this morning while I was scrolling through my messages with a cup of steaming coffee, still half asleep. 

I noticed a message from Jane, a friend and co-worker in the US. She just arrived home after a late night and due to the time delay between the US and Africa we were both u, but sharing different parts of the day. Upon her arrival at midnight she noticed a surprise waiting on her porch, and what an unusual and delightful one it was indeed.  In full bloom stood a rare midnight bloomer so to speak.

Jane's Queen in full bloom

This flower was unknown to Jane, although she had it for years. It was gifted to her 25 years ago by a neighbor, who originally smuggled it out of Venezuela, actually she only brought a leaf with her ….hidden in her bra. Miryiam Cash (The adventurous neighbor) sadly has moved on, but would have been smiling from ear to ear at Jane’s surprise.

When I noticed the images that Jane uploaded, I was not only intrigued but drawn to it, as there are only a handful of plants that almost never flower and when they do it’s a fleeting moment in time and people might wait a lifetime to witness it.

This beautifully fragrant flower that blooms only one night each year was not only striking but rare, and a sight to behold.  The aptly named “queen of the night” has for ages inspired people with it’s almost dinner plate sized strikingly white flowers that appear at midnight.

Witnessing the miraculous event of its bloom is like watching Cinderella become the bell of the ball. But alas, dawn is "midnight" for this Cinderella, as the flower wilts and the queen of the night becomes just a plain, inconspicuous cactus for yet another year.

In its native habitat, stretching from the sub tropics of Mexico to the rain-forests of South America, it never touches the ground, instead it clings to the branch of a tree forty to sixty feet up where it can grow 20-feet tall, wrapping its’ roots around the tree’s trunk and feeding on sunlight, rain, and air.
Perched in the rainforest canopy, the flower blooms bathed in moonlight amidst the whirl and buzz of nigh time creature life. 

The sent is captivating, not just to us humans, but also to its primary target, bats and moths.  It’s a burst of fragrance intended to lure them to its blooms to ensure pollination. It’s thus no surprise that with only a few hours each year, the performance is overpowering and the sight striking.

I will have to wait like the rest of us to witness this wonder of nature. I’m sure Jane will never look at this particular unassuming plant in the same way, as by know she knows that hidden below those cactus like leafs waits a burst of colour and fragrance as we all wait for the queen to perform again next year.

From Jane - The Dancing Queen - also called the queen of the night. 

Images by Jane Behrend of Emerging Destinations