Ocracoke nature, flora & fauna

It was a cereus night

A single flower from the night-blooming cereus, or Queen of the Night. Photo by Chaeli Moyer.

A single flower from the night-blooming cereus, or Queen of the Night. Photo by Chaeli Moyer.

In between the full “blue” moon on July 31 and the Perseids meteor showers peaking Aug. 11 to 13, an earthly event occurred at the home of Jude Wheeler along Sunset Drive.

Jude has a non-native, night blooming Cereus (Epiphylum oxypetalum, or Hylocerceus undatus), whose blooms occur only at night and last only until the sun greets them.

 She brought the plant  to Ocracoke five years ago from Durham where she had adopted it almost 30 years prior from its home in the former Pyewacket Restaurant.

A tropical succulent, the Queen of the Night blooms from late July to the end of August, and every summer, Jude informs her friends of the pending events.

“I can tell pretty well when it’s going to open,” she said one of the nights she and five other island women gathered to await the bloom.

The night-blooming cereus bud. Jude Wheeler knows by the look of the bud when it will bloom.

The night-blooming cereus bud. Jude Wheeler knows by the look of the bud when it will bloom. Photo by C. Leinbach

When the group arrived at Jude’s, the bud was closed. As they snapped photos of it, Jude explained that because she has had the plant for so long, she can tell almost down to the night it will bloom.

This night, Aug. 8, the bud—white with pale pink stripes—was the right color and size for an opening.

Kelley Shinn arrived at 10:30.

“It’s blooming!” she called out as she parked her car.

The group grabbed their cell phones and went outside to capture the delicate white flower with an equally delicate fragrance.

The majesty of the single flower lasted only through the night. 

By morning, the flower was done, with the magic of the one-night bloom enduring only as a memory and a series of photographs.

The night-blooming cereus with several flowers. Photo by Jude Wheeler

The night-blooming cereus with three flowers. Photo by Jude Wheeler

Jude Wheeler.  Photo courtesy of Jude Wheeler

Jude Wheeler. Photo courtesy of Jude Wheeler

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