Have you ever heard of the moon flower? Also known as the “moon flower” or its scientific name, Selenicereus wittii, this is a peculiar cactus with a flattened stem that twists around trees like a ribbon. This cactus blooms only once a year and only for twelve hours, after which the flower closes.
Exactly one moonflower from the University of Cambridge Botanical Gardens (CUBG) bloomed on February 20th and the entire flowering process was filmed for the first time, with more than 400,000 people around the world reporting the blooming bloom through a live broadcast on the BBC that this is the university’s website.
The bloom of the moon flower did not wait for the night
The moon flower has been part of the CUBG Botanical Garden since 2015 and is wrapped around a water chestnut tree. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the tropical greenhouse was closed for renovation work. Separately, the staff decided to set up a live stream to broadcast the timing of the moonflower blooming online. Staff started the livestream on Feb.9, when the flower had a 20 centimeter growth spurt. Botanists believed that the flower would soon open, but its growth eventually reached a length of 28 centimeters.
It was on February 20 that the sepals finally parted, indicating that the moonflower was about to bloom, and the flowering process actually began at 3 p.m. local time. This is a bit peculiar as this flower usually only blooms at night, but botanists explain this precocity due to the lighting on the camera, which could have disrupted the plant’s circadian rhythm.
As LiveScience reports, the flower reached full bloom at 5 p.m. with a maximum diameter of 15 centimeters. Unfortunately the flower had already closed at 3 a.m. on February 21st.
Scientists are skeptical about successful self-pollination of their moonflower
You should also know that since the moonflower only blooms for a short time, it gives off a strong odor similar to honeysuckle or gardenia to attract moths and, more specifically, two species of hawks, Cocytius cruentus and Amphimoena walkeri, the only insects with one Tongue able to reach the nectar at the base of the long shoot of the moonflower. However, because it closes quickly, that smell quickly becomes sour and repulsive too.
Because CUBG’s moon flower does not grow in nature, the scientists used a brush to remove pollen from the flower and apply a stigma on the same flower. In other words, it’s about self-pollination. A method that helps the plant to reproduce, but not the best since the organism is self-pollinating instead of transferring its stigma to another moonflower, which can create seeds that can disperse and form new plants. Scientists also fear that their moonflower is blocking self-pollination, a common case among plants.