Rare bloomer in the desert

By Bryant Million

Bryant Million
PNT Staff Writer
bryant_million@link.freedom.com
A rare cactus bloomed at a local couples’ home this last week, giving them and their neighbors a chance to see a beautiful sight only available once per year.
Gardening enthusiasts Cecil and Mary Clotfelter, of Portales own a species of cactus commonly called the nightblooming cereus which blooms its white flowers after sundown for a period of several nights each year.
“It’s the beauty and the rarity of the plant that makes it so interesting,” Mary said. “They (the flowers) are so delicate.”
She said they had three flowers bloom on Tuesday, 10 on Wednesday and the last one bloomed Thursday. The flowers begin to bloom at about 9 p.m. and it takes about three or four hours for them to open up completely, according to the Clotfelters. After several more hours the flowers die.
The Clotfelters invited friends and neighbors to watch the rare event with them after the plant’s buds began to grow and swell up, a sign that they will blossom soon.
Lisa Harrell, one of the attending neighbors on Wednesday, said watching the blooming reminded her of a flower in a children’s pop-up story book.
“The flower slowly began to open up, very gradually. The different petals began to unfold and the tongue slipped out,” Harrell said. “At times you could actually see it moving. It was fascinating.”
Though the plant is a part of the cactus family, it looks just like any other house plant and has no needles at all. According to Wikipedia.org, the Arizona-native plant’s stems are about one-half to one inch wide with six to nine edges. It’s flowers are white and up to 30 centimeters in diameter with a scent like that of vanilla.
Mary said they have had the plant for 10 years after growing it from a single leaf they received from a friend, and it is has not been a difficult plant to grow. The plant began its annual blooming about the third year.
She said that even though it is supposed to bloom once per year, the last time the plant bloomed was six or seven months ago.
“We were surprised it bloomed again so soon.”
She said this time more flowers bloomed on the cereus plant than in previous years as well.
The Clotfelters are both retired librarians. Mary said she has enjoyed flowers and gardening all of her life.