“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


Night-blooming cereus

Even the plants are celebrating the Summer Solstice.

This is the first bloom of the year from Robert's night-blooming cereus.

Let me pause here. The above link will take you to a series of photographs by Robert Fovell (not the first mentioned Robert - my Robert - well, actually Katie's Robert, who henceforth shall be known as Robert #1), who actually has a blog called Are you cereus?. His photos are gorgeous & you should check them out because this is a plant made of magic - this is the plant I once called sly. Each bloom lasts only one night - it opens in the dark & slips away before the morning's light.

Robert #1 has incredible cereus karma. Actually, I assume that Robert Fovell (henceforth to be known as Robert #2) must have some serious cereus (see how cleverly I worked that in?) karma also, since he did name his blog after this creature of the night, and since he does have those gorgeous photographs. (And while my photo is nothing like any of his, I'm quite thrilled to've gotten it. In my defense, I used the built-in flash on my camera, which I NEVER use, and which I discovered has some sort of super fast blinking thingy - believe it or not, I used to actually sell professional cameras for a living - which was flash-flash-flashing in the dark & blinding me & which scared me at first, and then I got worried that Robert #1 & Katie would wake up & tell me to stop it or that another neighbor would call the police because someone was in Robert #1's backyard firing off some blinking thingy. It was all quite dramatic.) :)

I'm rambling. I apologize. I took advantage of every moment of daylight yesterday & stayed up quite late last night. Very unlike me, but I knew the cereus was going to pop & I wanted to be there. Sometimes Robert #1's plant will have 10 or 12 blooms at one time - you can smell their amazing scent from the street - but last night was just one. Like I said, I think it was in honor of the Solstice.

I, too, have one of these plants. In fact, I have the mama plant. Mine used to belong to Mary, and Robert #1's started life as a cutting from hers. Used to, Mary would throw a party when she knew the blooms were going to open. You don't have a lot of warning - it seems as if the flowers are just suddenly there - & Mary would call everyone & we'd all show up & people would drink & eat & drink some more, and sit around in the dark waiting for the blooms to open. And then people would get cuttings when they saw how strange & magical the cereus was, and the poor plant just became smaller & smaller, shrinking away like a tired old woman. After Mary broke her hip, she gave the mama plant to me. It felt like quite a responsiblity - a passing of the torch. And last year it bloomed a couple of times. I admit to nestling it up to Robert #1's plant, in hopes that some of his karma will rub off. I think it's working.


  1. what a fantastic story...you wonderfully conveyed the manic feeling you felt getting the shot. :-)

    it's so fantastic to think of yours being the mama plant to all those others. there must be great karma in that!

    now i definitely want one of those plants. i wonder if they would grow in denmark? i'll have to visit my "plant school" (direct translation) today...

  2. What a magical way to celebrate the solstice.

    I have only recently learned of these beautiful flowers and I am now fascinated with them! I would so love to see one bloom in the night. Can you actually watch as it opens?? I wonder what they smell like.

    I don't think they would thrive up here in this cooler climate so I might have to travel great distances to see one, but I think it would be so worth it!

  3. gosh, this is one beautiful blossom!
    loved your story and how you got to shoot it.

  4. Julochka, Hele & Polona - many, many thanks. It's an amazing plant. Mary & I were talking last night about how you have to just FORCE people to come see it & then they can't live without one. :)

    And Jaime - you can almost see them open up right in front of your astonished eyes. Once I laid in the hammock in the backyard (Robert, Katie & I share a yard), knowing there were about 10 or 12 blooms ready to open that night, and it was mesmerizing! Every few minutes I could just barely see the white shapes getting bigger & bigger & the absolutely INTOXICATING scent grow stronger. When the flowers are fully open, they are 9, 10 or 12 inches across & the plant just felt so truly alive - I almost expected to glance over & find that it crept up closer to me. It was very cool.

    Thanks again to you all!

  5. goodness! i have never seen or smelled the fragrance but you have me enthralled...and confused as to who is who...? i must re-read this and figure out who's the neighbor and who's the one in california... well i know that is fovell and there is your robert ... and is there another one too? so say it again with numbers attached to their full names, your relationships to each and their actual location in relation to your house...sorry but i just need to get it right to follow along your blog the way i want to :)

  6. hehehe.. i read your comment after i posted my first one.."I almost expected to glance over & find that it crept up closer to me and hopped up otto the hammock to join me in a snuggle! 10-12 inches across.. WOWzers!

  7. Robin - Robert #1 lives here in Texas - my neighbor. It's HIS cereus that bloomed. Robert #2 is Fovell, in Calfornia, a professor at UCLA - I don't know him. But HE'S the one with the Are you cereus? blog. That's all there is - 2 Roberts.

    I have a feeling this helps not at all! It STILL sounds confusing, and I know who I'm referring to.

    :) Debi

  8. OH, I love this story! And I love the cereus party thing. What a lovely and unique idea! And spontaneous!
    My dad's yard on Molokai has these night blooming cereus'. One of them occupies a very tall tree and all you see is that. It is a very sly plant indeed!
    All your stories have magic woven throughout them!

  9. p.s. and yes, the fragrance is so very intoxicating! Just as the night blooming jasmine is (another sly flower) all of which are olfactory cues for me that connect me to summer at home as a young girl.
    Who says there is no time travel?

  10. Paula - Mary has mentioned to me several times that this plant is all over the place in Hawaii, but I wasn't sure whether she was right or night. I can't wait to tell her about your dad's.

    This morning I noticed another baby flower beginning on Robert's plant. More to come!

    Love, Debi


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