Night is right for cereus bloom

Jim Van Horn’s night-blooming cereus lived up to its name June 21.
Jim Van Horn’s night-blooming cereus lived up to its name June 21. Photo provided

Better late than never.

After almost 20 years in a State College greenhouse, Jim Van Horn’s night-blooming cereus finally lived up to its name.

It was a botanical Cinderella story, featuring a plant that spends the majority of its lifespan resembling a dry desert shrub, granted exactly one magic night of transformative beauty.

The cactus is supposed to bloom once a year during the midsummer months, but in the almost two decades since Van Horn brought the night-blooming cereus back from a trip to Florida, there hadn’t been so much as a glass slipper in sight — just a couple of vines.

“I’ve never paid any attention. It’s just there,” Van Horn said.

His wife was helping him to move some garden benches around the greenhouse on Saturday when she noticed that the buds on the cactus were beginning to swell.

By Sunday morning, the situation had reached a critical mass.

“It was like it was going to blow up,” Van Horn said.

He put a message out on Facebook that his cactus — after a 20-year waiting period — was finally ready to bloom.

And bloom it did.

At about 8:45 p.m. Sunday, the buds opened in front of 15 of Van Horn’s friends and neighbors, revealing five blossoms with white petals.

“Once it opened up it was absolutely gorgeous,” Van Horn said.

Van Horn described the flower as being at least 10 inches in diameter, a stunning and rapid feat of nature that had already drooped by the time the gardener awoke at 4:30 the next morning.

“It was really a rapid process,” Van Horn said.

The experience gave Van Horn a whole new appreciation for the plant — but don’t expect him to start giving it any special treatment.

“I think that I would continue to have careful neglect,” Van Horn said.