Bloom Watch #6

July 8, 2023

Blooming Secrets

Our persistent Garden Manager, Chris Kibler, says the Queen’s buds have grown very little over the past week, with the biggest just a tad over 50 mm. However, he’s noticed changes that hint at something to come.

The sepals are starting to turn reddish in color and the white hair on the buds is more prominent. According to our botanical records, towards the end of a stall period in bud growth, the color and shape of the buds begin to change. This, along with weather predictions of an increased chance of rain and humidity next week, has lead Chris to anticipate a growth spurt soon! We could have bloom night as soon as sometime in the following 10 days! He is visiting the Queen’s every morning now. “They’re coming soon- I promise!!!” he says. 

I’ve had the privilege to look at our Bloom Night records that catalog the many attributes of the collection, including the condition, phenology, size, and care of the Queen, which were diligently written by stewards of Tohono Chul over the past 30 years. Notes from the past that were handwritten with care. This got me thinking. Who is this plant, not just to Tohono Chul, but to the rest of the people out there? What is the context of these relationships from the past? 

Escaping the task of watering in the hot sun, I happily jumped on my PC. According to SEINet, a reputable botanical resource, the queen of the night root has been used to treat many conditions, including heart and skin ailments, as well as diabetes. The fruit, roots, and stalk have all been traditionally eaten. (source: Interesting. But what else? 

The more I started to dig online, the more curious I became. Short blurbs in botanical descriptions stating its use as a food and folk medicine with no further explanation are easy to find. More in-depth articles are seemingly scarce. Some say that the tuber is edible, while others caution not to overconsume because of serious side effects. 

Sifting through google scholar, I discovered a scientific journal article published just last year from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México called “Antidiabetic Sterols from Peniocereus greggii Roots”! Here is a little summary:  

The university team studied a concentrated essence made from the roots of Peniocereus greggii and found that it contained six distinct chemicals with blood sugar stabilizing effects. In the scientific fashion, they tested these components on mice and muscle cells grown in petri dishes. Two of the chemicals were specifically found to promote insulin secretion and two others also hinted at improving mitochondrial function. (source:

Botanical illustration which shows cross-sections of P. greggii stems, the tuberous roots, and other details. By Paulus Roetter.

The biological actions of the decoction from the root is complex, so I’ll leave you to read the article if you wish. However, it really exciting to see traditional folk medicine getting scientific recognition in Mexico and to discover some of the secrets that the Queen holds. I hope to come back to the topic of her herbal attributes in the future as I uncover more insights. Till then, know that a flower is always more than just a flower. 

By Tracey Till, Propagation Associate

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