Friday, March 28, 2008

Twelve Hour Wonder

After years of practice, I'm pretty good at guessing when my Argentine Giant (Echinopsis candicans) will bloom. The huge red buds grow rapidly to about six inches long, and then begin to expand in the center. Within a couple of days, the tips of the buds start showing a bit of white. Once that happens, I know the buds will open that evening. Flowering happens in March and April, and occasionally in late summer after the Monsoon storms.

It happened Thursday evening. I had my camera ready, and by 8 pm, the flowers were completely open and at their most fragrant. Their fragrance reminds me of a light bergamot. Later on, I went out to see if any pollinators had arrived, but no moths or bats were flitting around. They don't have much time to do their thing. The flowers will last through the night and as dawn approaches, they will wilt.

Argentine Giant is a "must have" for Arizona home landscaping, and it seems as if there is one in every yard. Some older specimens are quite large, about four feet high and clumping to seven feet wide. The huge cactus stems can have numerous flowers along the length of each stem. Most of the flowers open at the same time and are about six to eight inches in diameter, completely hiding the stems. It is an amazing sight to see.

For more information on this cactus see a previous post.


barbara said...

This is wonderful. What a beauty, and made more special by the need to be aware and see it at it's brief display. Does it REALLY smell like bergamot, the bergamot I shoot in Wisconsin? I can't imagine!

I love visiting your blog - I have always loved cacti, but was pretty innocent to the variety the species (is that the right term) held. I learn so much from you, and I have put on my life list a spring camping trip to AZ to see the show in person.

Nancy J. Bond said...

Stunningly pretty! I watched Project X last night, partially about dessert plants, and was in awe of how beautiful some cacti blooms are.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing plant and flower! Once these flowers bloom, that's it? There's not another bloom cycle? I love the pearly feathery petals you've captured in this photo.

Julie said...

This is what I have been waiting to see! Giant white cactus blooms! How cool is this? I love that it is so common Thanks, Aiyana for getting such a great shot!!!

Pam/Digging said...

I've been reading your blog for a while and admiring your plant knowledge and photos. But I had to stop and leave you a comment on this one. Wow, what a beauty! If only you'd seen bats pollinating it, but I'm glad you were able to catch the bloom.

Teri C said...

They are so beautiful and the funny part is I just found some on my walk this am and took a few photos.

Val said...


beckie said...

Another gorgeous cactus! You certainly know your stuff. Maybe on some of them you could list their hardiness zones. Thanks for a great post.

No Rain said...

My perception is Bergamot. If you've ever smelled Williams-Sonoma Italian Bergamot hand lotion, then that's the smell. It is Citrus Auranthium Bergamia. Someone else may have a totally different take on the scent.

Since you like cacti and succulents, I think you would love Arizona in spring. The Desert Botanical Garden is just beautiful in March and early April.

Yes, cactus flowers are wonderful--some more than others. I also like the various rib and spine patterns on many cacti. It seems if they haven't been blessed with the prettiest flowers, then they have gorgeous spination.

They bloom, live a night and wither. Occasionally they'll have a few more flowers a couple of weeks later, and also sometimes after the summer rains. Not always though.

I'm glad I've figured out just when to expect the flowers to open because they go so fast. By morning they've already started to fade. Such a shame, but kind of like humans. Wish I could have known how fast youth would pass!

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. This year there weren't as many flowers as last year, but this year's flowers are larger.

You'll have to use your photos to do some art for Cactus Monday!


I could list the Zones--but for the most part, almost all cacti need to have an average temperature above 40 degrees and they are not frost tolerant. There are exceptions of course. Many folks in cold climates grow cacti indoors or in greenhouses with great success, especially if special lighting is used.

verobirdie said...

Thank you for sharing this wonder with us. The flowers are beautiful.

gizelle said...

Whoa! Those are really beautiful! Sad that they only are one-night blossoms and good that you captured them right on! Thanks for sharing this, I learned a lot from you!

Teresa said...

These are unreal. Do you see lots of other folks outside appreciating their beauty on the nights when they bloom. What a treat for Arizona gardeners!

Barbara said...

Absolutely beautiful these blossoms. And even more when having the fragrance of bergamot, which I like very much. Here we had a softdrink when I was a child, made of bergamot. But you cannot get it anymore today.

kate smudges said...

The flowers are gorgeous - I like how you are able to figure out when exactly the flowers will bloom. The older and large specimens must be interesting to see.