I hold no preference among flowers, so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous. Edward Abbey, 1927-1989, American author, essayist

Posted By Mike Padgett

June 5, 2018

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.- In a land where many plants and animals can sting, stab, poison or bite, we have a large cactus that each summer offers startling beauty among its sharp needles.

This year, beginning in late April and into early June, a Night-Blooming Cereus cactus in our backyard treated us to about 30 ivory-colored flowers the size of baseballs.  The flowers bloomed in waves, from one or two to several at a time. We believe the cactus is more than 20 years old. It is about 8 feet high, and it is as broad as a small tree. Its stout base resembles the dull gray bark of a tree while its several arms with regular rows of short needles are a bluish-green color.

Watching the blooms start opening before midnight is a rare treat. By sunrise, which is the best time to enjoy the jewel-like flowers, they were fully open. Several buds that will become future flowers were scattered around the open blooms.  While the flowers were opening during the night, the first to enjoy their pollen were moths and bats. During daylight, bees take over as pollinators.

Photographing the cereus blooms before and at sunrise was a perfect opportunity for backlit photography. Shooting into the light, such as before the sun breaks the horizon, creates dramatic images. The translucent white flower petals resemble feathers when backlight shines through them, creating a glow.

The blossoms begin closing by midmorning. By noon, they were fully closed and starting to droop. After two or three days, the blooms usually fall from the cactus. A few of the flowers disappeared overnight. The likely suspects are unseen nocturnal desert creatures around our north Scottsdale home.


Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett

Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


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Jun 5th, 2018

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