Queen of the Night
Even without a regal name, you'd know that the Queen of the Night, the night-blooming cereus, is the sovereign of this area's list of stunning, fragrant white flowers.
While all of the fragrant white night-blooming plants here are worthy of royal attention, Reina de la Noche (Queen of the Night) is certainly appropriately named. Few other plants in the world produce blooms that can compete with the style, form, scent, or drama of these fragrant, once-a-year giant white flowers.
Because each flower opens and closes in the dark of one night, few expatriates have witnessed the flowers on the sprawling, ordinary-looking plant that drapes over walls, rocks, or trees.
It takes a few seasons to learn the pattern of this plant's blooms. Be careful, you could miss the flowers entirely during your first year or two at Lake Chapala.
When you notice that one of the buds begins swelling, be sure to go back and check the plant every hour or so, all evening long. Sometime between eight p.m. and midnight, you'll be calling the entire family and part of the neighborhood to come watch the final hour when this huge bloom opens bit by bit, just like a Discovery Channel freeze-frame documentary film.
(Above:) When the buds have swollen to this point, know the flower will open that very night.
Beginning in April, the first several flowers open on the Hylocereus undatus, which is better known in the United States as the night-blooming cereus. Early in the blooming season, one of the glorious flowers opens each night. If you are lucky enough to have a Queen of the Night in your garden, let your friends know that you'll call them in time to come see the flowers open on the night of the plant's annual grand finale.
There's usually one magnificent night in late April or early May when a half dozen or more of the eight- to ten-inch white flowers come into full bloom. Most of us who have relocated to Lakeside are usually sound asleep long before midnight, but it's well worth the effort to join in a flower watch — you won’t see much the following morning -- soon after the first rays of morning sun, the flowers fold up and fade away.
(Left:) This plant produced 10 lemon-scented, eight-inch blooms on one memorable night
Break out a bottle of Champagne to toast a life that brings you to this moment, to this sight, and the lemony fragrance spreading through the neighborhood.
A larger tropical variety of the plant is found in the southern Mexico states of Oaxaca and Vera Cruz. Epiphyllum oxypetalum has many of the characteristics of Reina de la Noche. An ordinary-looking plant, it is distinguished only by its long leaves during most of the year. It earns the title Dama de Noche (Lady of the Night) on the one night of the year when it bursts forth with 100 or more 10- to 14-inch blooms.