Arizona's "Queen of the Night," the night-blooming Cereus cactus, photographed by Carl Hankwitz, early on the morning of June 4, 2008, in the Dos Lagos subdivision on Dove Mountain. Typically all the plants in one area will open at one time. Filling the air with a heavy perfume, they attract large numbers of pollinating insects. The flowers close soon after dawn and do not re-open the next night. The flower produces a large red fruit that also is sweet and edible. Most flowers only bloom one night a year.

Each year, for one evening only, Tohono Chul opens its doors to visitors from around the world to experience the mystery, majesty and beauty of the Queen of the Night, the night-blooming cereus Peniocereus greggii.

Lee Mason, Tohono Chul's Director of General Services, assured those who are interested that Bloom Night won't overlap with your 4th of July celebrations.

“I know everyone is sitting on the edge of their chairs wondering about the weekend,” Mason said. “I made a full inspection this morning to verify, and it's certain, bloom night will not be this weekend.”

Because the mass blooming of the Queen of the Night is hard to predict, sometimes there are as little as 12 hours between the announcement of Bloom Night and Bloom Night itself, bloom.

After a period of start-and-stop growth, the buds blossom in a mass blooming on one night between the end of May and late July.

“This week I have had six flowers bloom and two more will bloom tonight,” Mason said Friday afternoon. “There were three that aborted this week and two that budded. This has been a year of ups and downs, the agony building each week: will enough bloom on one night to make it a wonderful night, or are they going to trickle out?  I have to remind myself that I felt the same way last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.”

The Facts:

• Majority of flowers bloom the same evening usually between late-May and Mid-July.

• Tohono Chul has the largest private collection of Night Blooming Cereus in the world.

• Researchers still don’t know how the flowers know when to bloom en masse.

• Each year 1,500 to 2,500 people attend Bloom Night.

• Flowers start opening at 5 p.m. and are in full bloom by 8 p.m.

If you go:

• Wear comfortable shoes.

• Bring a camera with a flash.

Information  from several press releases used in this article.

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