UPDATE: I’m told the bloom will most likely happen Saturday (25%), Sunday (50%), or Monday (25%).
After starts and stalls, it appears that buds on the Queen of the Night (Peniocereus greggii) collection at Tohono Chul Park are growing again. The Park has the nation’s largest known collection of these plants and the yearly Bloom Night attracts several thousand visitors… when it happens.
And therein lies the rub. Predicting the best night for a large bloom is, at best, an educated fingers-crossed game. It’s the only event I know that is called sometimes just a few hours before it happens. If you want to in the loop and get updates, join the Bloom Watch mailing list.
The Queen, as it’s called, looks like nothing more than a dead stick for most of the year. Her nutrients and sugars are hidden below ground in a large bulb. If you’ve walked in the desert much, you probably passed a Queen and never knew. Her survival strategy is to blend in under a desert tree or shrub and look quite unappetizing. Her secret is the beautiful bloom that begins to open as the sun sets. Sphinx moths and bats fly flower to flower pollinating the rare blooms. The blooms last only one night.
There are several hundred of these plants all over the Park so visitors are able to stroll the paths and enjoy a rare sight. There are volunteers and docents to help and guide visitors, and a telling of the age-old myth of the old woman and her daughter that is associated with the Queen. If you go, and it’s worth the trip, wear closed shoes and take a flashlight. Photography is allowed, but of course you’ll have to use flash. Entry is $5 for non-members.