Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Friday, September 25, 2009

Night Blooming Cereus Ritual

First stage of blooming. From my personal archives.
Final stage of blooming. From my personal archives.

The action of inhabitat (“habitar”), to live and act in a certain culture, is frequently dispersed in multiple partial aspects, all contributions from different disciplines are really important to understand how humans behave in their environment.

One of the most exotic plants we could find in the deserts of Southern Arizona, East to Western Texas and Southern Mexico to California is the Night-blooming Cereus, which is a member of the Cactus Family. It seems a very insignificant sprawling plant most part of the year. It is rarely seen in the wild because of its inconspicuousness. But for one summer's night in July, each year, its exquisitely scented dramatic flower opens as night falls, emitting a sweet musky fragrance that attracts its pollinators, moths and bats. Then, early in the morning, it closes for another year, but followed by a red-orange, short-spined elliptical fruit.
Cereus is a name from the Greek, and refers to the candelabrum like shape of the leaves. It is also reported that Spanish servants used them as torches, after the branches were cut, dried and dipped in oil.
The Epiphyllum oxypetalum plant is also called Orchid Cactus and Queen of the Night (Reina de la Noche), and the flower was the inspiration to create the fragrance Desert Queen. The specific healing field is heart diseases.

What’s so fascinating about this beautiful flower? The whole affair is extremely sensual, from the anticipation inspired by the bud as it swells like a balloon. The day of the blooming, the process would begin about 9 or 10 pm, and would be wide open, up to 8 inches diameter by midnight. You can literally see the movement. Once it is fully open the scent is noticeably strong.
This “magical” event has a social logic. It triggers a family ritual throughout the world, neighbors and friend are called to participate. In many old Spanish American houses, fiestas were organized on the night of the blooming.
Just a simple flower is the motivation for space organization around the plant, as a ceremony held around an altar. There will be discipline, feelings, all five senses enhanced, in relation with the minimum expression of the landscape.
The flower causes the man to inhabit (habitar), as he can experiment an event that has become highly significative for him.

Here we are waiting, everybody conforming space, watching in fascination.

Notes on June 28th 2013:
My friend, the owner of the beautiful night-blooming cereus gave me a cut, maybe 4 years ago. After struggling under cold and windy weather, here are the current pictures of my plant, and maybe, who knows, I´m lucky to see it bloom this year:

Night blooming cereus. Personal archives. See the leaves how the grow from other leaves

Another shot from my night blooming cereus. Personal archives


  1. Hola Myriam, te felicito por el blog!! Efectivamente estoy algo complicado con el trabajo, sumado a un fin de semana engripado, más unas pequeñas modificaciones en casa, da como resultado, menos cocina.
    Había leído sobre esta flor, no me imaginaba que generaba esta cuestión social. Interesante.
    Te mando un beso y nos mantenemos en contacto.

  2. Gracias Germán, un placer ¨verte¨, me alegra que estés con avances en la casa, felicitaciones, y espero te mejores y sigas a full con lo tuyo. Me regalaron una pequeña plantita del cereus, en tres o cuatro años me toca hacer la reunión a mí. Un beso



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