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Cases of cereus affection

July 19, 2007

THANK you, Molly Selvin, for the story ["A Beauty in Bloom for Only One Night," July 12] on the night-blooming cereus. I didn't know any of the other names, but I do know this lady of the night well. Reading the column gave me that nostalgic feeling.

In my childhood home in Mission, Texas, we had night-blooming cereus outside our living room window, and each summer my mother would call me to the window to see its blooms illuminating the darkness. My aunt had a cereus, too, and a friend of hers captured its beauty for her in a pastel painting.

After the passing of my aunt and uncle, their home and its contents were left to my three daughters and three nieces. My daughters asked if there was anything in the home I wanted, and, of course, it was only this painting. The six heirs put Post-its on the items they wanted, and the cereus had two claims -- one from one of my daughters and one from one of my nieces. My niece asked my daughter if she wanted this picture for herself or for her mother, and when my daughter said it was for me, my niece smiled and took her Post-it off.

Pat Ellis

Newbury Park

Itoo inherited a night-blooming cereus plant, from my dad. I have such fond memories of his excitement when the bloom (he got one at a time) would swell up (he used to refer to it as pregnant) during the evening and we would make a pilgrimage to his house to watch it open, almost like time-lapse photography. And what a fragrant aroma it would emit!

My husband and I painted the exterior of our house two years ago and moved our plant from its normal spot, and it hasn't bloomed since. We have faithfully neglected it. I think too much water and sun, although from your description my cereus looks like your cereus. After reading your article, I'm moving the plant back to its blooming location. Maybe it will bloom by end of summer. I'll pray for an Indian summer!

Barbara Brody

Culver City


IT has been more than five years since I last saw a bloom.

The queen of the night had its place in my formative years: I grew up in India and used to be amused when my mother would take us to her parents' home whenever they telephoned saying a bloom was due that evening.

My grandparents lived about 15 miles away, and if we could not stay late enough, they were generous enough to send us back with a couple of the buds so that we could also savor the experience, albeit severed from the plant.

Gradually, the cereus in our own home began bursting with blooms, and it was my mom's turn to call them up.

I have been here in L.A. five years now, currently a USC grad student-cum-preschooler's mom, anticipating the day I will be able to afford a small garden in SoCal and hopefully continue the tradition with my daughter.

Harini Sarath Los Angeles

Ithought you might be interested in a song by the name "Night Blooming Cereus." The song was written by Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, probably one of the best Hawaiian composers at this time. The only vocal of this song is on Jerry Santos' "Expecting Friends" CD recorded in 1989.

Mahalo again for the wonderful story; I hope you enjoy the song.

Dave Merker Fountain Valley

THANKS for the beautiful article on the cereus. In Asia there were countless poems and articles about this flower.

The poets compare its beauty and its short life span to a young lady's, and that is one of the main reasons why many Asian families would not have this plant in their garden.

Tran Chang Montebello

"FULL many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air" is a line I recall each time my cereus cactus blooms.

The flowers are magnificent and its perfume almost intoxicating, so that one feels like keeping watch all night, as by the morning the "show" is over.

A friend of mine invites guests over for a glass of wine the evening she knows her cereus will bloom. It is that spectacular of a show. Thanks for your article.

Jennifer Kerwin

Huntington Beach

MY wife and I were caught up immediately by your story of the cereus cactus because we have the same plant and our obtaining it was so similar to your experience.

We received two cuttings from a very old aunt of mine about 15 years ago.

They languished in pots for about two years and barely grew. They were finally put in the ground in an obscure part of our backyard.

Whatever we did was perfect and they just took off like crab grass in a dichondra bed. We really did not know what a prize we would receive until my wife noticed the blossoms one night after they had been there for two or three years and had grown multiple segments.

Jay and Linda Wexler

Costa Mesa

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