Last week, Tohono Chul Park held its annual Bloom Night, where dozens of night-blooming cereus open up as the sun sets. Only this year, park officials had the rare opportunity to host it two nights in a row.
The cereus plant, known as the Queen of the Night, resembles an unremarkable stick most of the year. That changes if a plant produces a bud to flower. In that case, the plant blooms but for one night only once a year.
The park has the largest private collection of night-blooming cereus in the nation, with more than 350 individual plants. Since the cereus is not self-fertile and each flower is only open for one night, the plants bloom in synchrony with other cereuses.
This synchronous blooming increases the possibility for the plants to pollinate, which in turn enhances their chances to reproduce.
The park’s first Bloom Night took place Wednesday night; 68 flowers bloomed and about 630 people made the annual pilgrimage to observe and record the event. By Thursday night, the park had 36 blooms; however, heavy wind, rain and hail from a late afternoon storm damaged 11. Despite the inclement weather, nearly 900 people attended the second night.
“Wednesday night, everything went smooth,” said Marcia Ring, the park’s marketing and communications manager. “Thursday night obviously threw us for a loop. We were just trying to get people out of the rain. The park looked like it was snowing. We had so much hail you couldn’t see the ground.
“Once we got back into the groove, it went really, really smoothly,” she noted.
Few out-of-towners travel to see Bloom Night because it usually occurs with very short notice and people are living in cooler climates at this time of year.
“This is a kind of a fun summer event because it’s really for Tucsonans,” Ring explained. “The people who aren’t afraid of the heat, who aren’t afraid of the monsoons, and tough it out all summer, they are the ones who get to enjoy it, whereas everything else in Tucson seems as though it is geared toward the winter.”
Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, will hold a Monsoon Madness plant sale from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 29. Admission is free.
For more information, visit the park’s website at www.tohonochulpark.org or call 742-6455.