In Search of the Queen

Last night, I made my second annual visit to see the Queen of the Night - the night-blooming cereus, whose flowers blossom en masse on one night each year. The blooms begin to open at sunset and only last until dawn - making her a very rare beauty! Keep reading to learn more and for some beautiful pictures!

The Mystery of The Queen

The Queen of the Night is a desert plant that blooms en masse, for only one night every year. It begins the process of unfolding at dusk, only to wilt at day break.

This night blooming cereus in the processing of opening fully

A Highly-Anticipated Appearance

Each year, a garden near my home - with the largest private collection of these flowers in the world - hosts a viewing event on "bloom night." It's so amazing to get to walk through the desert grounds at night! While these flowers are the star of the evening, the humidity of monsoon season brings out the thick smell of creosote from the many bushes, the saguaros stand tall in the shadows, and the night is filled with the sound of crickets chirping under the brush.

Pretty, green-tinged lower petals on an opening night blooming cereus

Pretty, green-tinged lower petals on an opening night blooming cereus[/caption] You could easily walk around for hours, looking for these once-a-year blooms and enjoying the evening. To make things even more interesting, there are several varieties of the plant, each of which produces a different type of bloom. Some have wider petals and some are thinner, while some of the blooms have petals that are tinted with various colors. The ones above have green-tinted petals; my favorites of the evening were pink-tinted (shown below).

Fully open night blooming cereus with streaks of pink in her petals

How Does She Do It?

How do these flowers bloom en masse each year? With varying locations, conditions, and growth cycles (more or less sun, water, etc.), it's definitely an impressive feat! Researchers aren't quite sure yet, but they speculate that it has something do with chemical-based communication. This mass bloom also seems to coordinate with the first rainfall of the monsoon season: The Queen usually holds out until then - even when the rains show up late, like they did this year (last year, bloom night was in mid-June). And while there are a few blooms here and there that go earlier or later than the rest, they largely do all bloom on the same night.

Back-lit night blooming cereus with wide petals

Want to read more about this beautiful, mysterious flower? Check out Tohono Chul's pages about collecting and researching The Queen.

The Crystal Connection

I was debating whether or not to post this; I know you are all crystal lovers, but The Queen - beautiful and interesting as she is - doesn't really have anything to do with crystals. Or does she? I was considering what crystal the night blooming cereus is most like: if I had to pair her with a crystal, what that might be. She's beautiful, and exotic, rare, and mysterious...but I couldn't get over thinking that, if I could pair her with any crystal, it would be quartz. Simple, common quartz. So why??

Well, think about quartz: It's a powerful amplifier. Everyone loves it. And, because - or maybe in spite - of its accessibility and common nature, it is truly a gorgeous, mystical, magical crystal. Quartz may not be rare like The Queen - but it is beautiful. It is a favorite of so many. And it grows in and is cut to so many different manifestations, that it is always-changing, always-evolving, and, yet, is still totally unique. Plus, I think that each one enhances the beauty of the other: the clear quartz crystal is a beautiful complement to the exquisite Queen; while the Queen adds an exotic flare to the stunning beautiy (simple, as with a tumbled or polished piece, or complex, as with a large spray of points) of quartz.

What do you think about my crystal and flower pairing? Do you agree - or would you pair the night blooming cereus with a different crystal? Have you seen the Night Blooming Cereus in person before? Let me know in the comments!