Saturday, August 25, 2007

Midnight Special

Cereus peruvianus

Yesterday evening at dusk, I noticed my Cereus peruvianus (Peruvian Apple Cactus) had unexpectedly developed a few buds and one was ready to bloom, a first for this cactus. It started out as a small potted cutting about seven years ago. When establishing my garden at my current residence, I decided the cactus was getting too large for its ever-expanding pots so I put it in the ground. It has now grown to over our feet tall with several stems. (The C. Peruvianus can reach 30 feet tall.) The unusual hard freeze last winter caused some damage to the growing tips of a couple of stems, so the cactus formed arms on those stems, and surprisingly, it was on a couple of these new arms that the buds had developed.

Since I could tell the flower would open that night, I began my hourly treks to the garden to check its progress. At bedtime, I checked once again. It was so close to opening that I decided to wait it out. At midnight, it finally happened. I took this photo within minutes of its complete unfolding. Now I have a record of its first bloom.

One of the reasons for this cactus’ common name is that after it flowers, it forms an “apple” or fruit that is edible. The fruit has been compared in taste to a not-quite-ripe watermelon. The fruit is red, and the inside white with lots of seeds that provide a texture and crunch like that of Kiwi fruit. Unlike the fruit of the Prickly Pear, it has no glochids, making it easy to eat with just a rinse. These fruits, known as pitaya in Central and South America where the cactus is cultivated, are also popular with birds.

When driving around town today I noticed that most all of the C. peruvianus cacti--common here as they are so easily propagated with cuttings--had formed hundreds of buds, seemingly overnight. As the fruit forms and ripens over the next few weeks, I’m sure the birds (and some humans) are going to have quite a feast.


Beth said...

Well worth the wait! I'm sure that was a fun gardening adventure.

Julie said...

This must have been so exciting...waiting like the witching hour!!! I would have been wetting my pants waiting!!! Tee hee hee!

kate said...

What a beautiful flower and how lucky you were to see its opening. The fruit must look wonderful as they start forming.

I would have loved to see this.

No Rain said...

Yes, it was fun waiting for it to open as I wanted to get it while it was fresh. The old saying that things start dying the minute they are born is true of these flowers. Their life span is about 12-16 hours depending on weather conditions.