Bloom Watch #1

May 18, 2022

New Growth

Midafternoon on the Desert View Trail there is an enveloping quiet. Only the wind against the ears and the shuffle of sand underfoot at first. Then the birds’ peaceful calls drift by and the hum of winged insects hovers in the whitethorn trees.

Notice the shards of white quartz that dot the earth, creating shelter for soil crust communities. The whiptails scurry by. Flower buds crown the saguaros, almost ready to open. Ripe bursage seeds wait for furry feet. Chain-fruit cholla taller than me stand like desert bodyguards.

Stems grow from the tips. Concentrated spines and fuzz help protect the area where cell division is occurring on a Peniocereus greggii, the night-blooming cereus.

The Queen blends into the tree’s dark shadows.

Known as the night-blooming cereus, she is frosted with a waxy coating, the purple and green pigments blending into shades of dark gray and red brown to the human eye. Miniature spines that feel like Velcro decorate the twisting stems.

The fuzzy white branch tips and buds are the telltale signs of new growth beginning. The Queen is waking up.

Gardens Supervisor, Chris Kibler has been watching carefully. He’s found 12 plants with flower buds. Two that are ahead of the rest. There are 20 or more tiny buds not more than a pencil eraser in size which may become branches or flowers.

One night a year we celebrate “Bloom Night”, when all the night-blooming cereus cacti flower in unison! This year the event will once again be open to the public. Last year’s Bloom Night fell on Wednesday, June 30. Which day will The Queen choose for Bloom Night this year? We’ll have to wait and see!

“We are at least a month out,” says Chris.

— Tracey Till, Retail Greenhouse & Propagation Associate, Tohono Chul

Love The Queen? Then check out our Capturing the Queen class!

Coming up on May 21, 2022 Karen Wright, Tohono Chul volunteer, professional photographer, and author of Queen of the Night: A Rare Beauty, will lead a hands-on photography workshop. Learn how you can capture beautiful images of the ephemeral night-blooming cereus flowers!

Saturday | May 21 | 10:00 am – 12:00 pm | Education Center
Classroom 1 | $25 members, $30 general public

It’s never too early to start thinking about the illustrious Peniocereus greggii, or Queen of the Night. In preparation for the arrival of our much-anticipated Bloom Night, professional photographer, author, and Tohono Chul volunteer, Karen Wright shares tips and tools for capturing the perfect cereus image. We’ll cover everything from exposure and lens choice to lighting and composition. You’ll get an insider’s view as we take a short walk on the grounds to scout the locations of potential prolific bloomers (please wear closed-toed shoes). Bring your digital camera and light source (flash, flashlight, or phone) to learn how to capture and create magical images!