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May 25, 2015


Isn’t this flower gorgeous? It’s the first of several that will appear on a snakelike succulent Paul planted in our hypertufa mini-volcano. A gift from garden designer Dustin Gimbel, the handmade volcano has played host to this plant for a couple years now. It’s been well-behaved in its spot against the fence, contentedly growing and sending out ever-lengthening sinous arms dotted with small but prickly prickles. While puttering around a week ago I saw something on the plant that I could only describe as surreal. If you’re someone not fluent in artspeak, the word surreal can be attached to things that are dreamlike, bizarre or disorienting in their strangeness. So, what was this strange thing, you ask?


It was a perfect little ball of … fur? For more than a few seconds, probably even minutes, I did not know what I was looking at (top photo, above). Definitely both bizarre and disorienting to this viewer, I was afraid to stretch my hand out to touch it. I ran through my brain’s memory banks (such as they are), looking for any mention of a mammal that might deposit their offspring on succulents growing in mini-volca . . . needless to say I came up empty. Then I remembered Méret Oppenheim’s, ‘Object’ or ‘Le Déjeuner en fourrure‘, a surrealist sculpture from 1936. One of the most memorable pieces of the surrealist art movement, it’s a cup, spoon and saucer covered in fur (click to see). Both humorous and unsettling, the sculpture startles the viewer with its odd mix of materials and connotations; it’s the ordinary made strange. Tangent ended, I finally decided I’d let it be but check on it. Two days later: It changed. The fur ball had lengthened impossibly. Now a stalk, it almost looked like an antelope’s leg, only it ended in a tight cluster of what looked like dusky fingers, instead of a tiny hoof. I couldn’t resist touching the fingers; they felt cool. Like rubber or plastic. Weird.



A couple more days passed and — finally! — the fingers unclenched. They opened and stretched outward in graceful curves (both photos above). And the colors: Beneath the bud’s dusky red fingers were petals a yellow-green, then just yellow, tinged with green. I was beside myself now. When would the flower fully open? I was crazed by the idea that I might miss this momentous occasion.



The next day the petals seemed to want to open but they were unsure (both photos above). I was afraid it was too overcast for the flower’s debut . . . or maybe it had already opened, in the dark of night. Perhaps its full bloom only took place in the moonlight. I decided to give it another day.



The next morning it had changed again; I decided happily that the flower wasn’t nocturnal (top photo above). The outer petals now stretched out further, allowing the white inner ones to appear. They were still closed but on the verge. That evening they’d opened. Not fully still, but more; enough to show the structure inside. The parts that would attract insects to them and make them unwitting accomplices in their continuance. The petals still felt cool to my fingers; I tried smelling the flower, but its perfume was undetectable to my nose.



I suspected that the full flower would take place in the dark and I was right. Impatiently I waited for night’s enveloping darkness to fall so that I could capture the flower’s full display. Even without the camera’s flash I could see the flower easily. Its petals created a star-shine nothing short of spectacular, while its interior structures were powdered, a definite invitation. Leaving nothing to chance, a final starburst jutted forth from the bloom’s center.



The morning after (top photo above). The show of the night before has taken its toll and left the bloom’s petals in a tangle. Still beautiful, make no mistake, but it’s obviously spent. I decide to leave it be and check in again at dusk; maybe it would bloom again?! The party’s definitely over (lower photo above). It’s now fully dark again and I’ve just gone outside to check the flower, just to be sure. Nothing.

I’ll miss my first amazing fur flower. But, as you can see if you look at the photos carefully, more are on the way . . .


I’ve tried but cannot find this particular plant anywhere online . . . If any of you readers can enlighten me as to its name, place of origin and any other pertinent information, I’d appreciate it. I hope you don’t mind my frequent artistic side-trips and tangents but they’re another way I can share my world with you. Please feel free to share yours as well in the comments section.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Rebecca permalink
    May 25, 2015 5:37 am

    Looks like it could be a ‘Dragon Fruit’ plant?

    • May 25, 2015 5:45 am

      Thanks for your comment, Rebecca! I’d be delighted if my plant produced dragon fruit but I’m not convinced it’s a pitaya. From the photos in the link you sent, the pitaya’s body is flat, while mine has a tri-lobed body. 😉

    • May 25, 2015 5:59 am

      Hi, Luisa! I think you’re close; I saw many of these same links. While the flowers look very similar, the plant’s body looks different somehow. I’ve got to go to bed or I’m in danger of staying up all night clicking every link on Google! I’ll do more research tomorrow. 😉

  2. Vickie Perez permalink
    May 25, 2015 6:10 am

    I absolutely understand the wait to find how the bloom will be when open. I remember waiting for my Queen of the NIght to open. In some ways it makes me think of ephi’s. The bloom somewhat resembles one of mine. But not the plant itself. Looking forward to what you find out. It’s a way cool plant and beautiful bloom.

    • May 25, 2015 6:16 am

      Hey, Vickie, I agree it looks like an ephi of some sort but I can’t pinpoint the actual one … plus: typing furry, fuzzy, hairy, orbs, balls or buds as keywords is bringing up stalks of an entirely different type! I’m gonna go to bed and look again tomorrow. Thanks for commenting! 😉

  3. May 25, 2015 6:22 am

    Agree with others that the characteristic flower marks it as an obvious member of Hylocereeae. Looks like Selenicereus pteranthus, which has a fuzzy bud.

  4. May 25, 2015 1:15 pm

    “Queen of the night” – what an apt and lovely descriptor. According to the link the plant is native to Mexico as well as the West Indies so no wonder yours is so happy. Lovely large night opening flowers like yours typically attracts various sphinx moths as pollinators here in Central Texas. As large and vigorous as they are, if they visited your bloom that could certainly explain the aftermath images.

    Though I’m not growing anything nearly so glamorous or potentially mysterious, I completely understand your short-term obsession. I am several seasons in and find my own fascination with Datura’s oversized brilliant white overnight flowers has not waned with repetition. I cannot help myself – I simply stand and stare…

    • May 25, 2015 4:45 pm

      Oooh, sphinx moths, Deb … I love the idea of these mysterious creatures engaging in a pollination pas de deux with my Queen. As for your daturas, I understand your stares: I used to have a brugmansia that produced huge pink-fading-to-yellow trumpets that were not only amazingly beautiful but also perfumed the air, especially at dusk.Totally swoon worthy.

  5. May 30, 2015 6:43 pm

    I have a similar mystery plant from Dustin, as yet unbloomed. I hope it’s this one. I always like getting a surrealist movement fix from your blog — you were born too late!

    • May 30, 2015 6:45 pm

      Needless to say, Denise, I love that this bizarro plant has found its home in the hypertufa volcano that was a gift from Dustin. They’re a perfect match!

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