Nymph! not for thee the radiant day returns,
Nymph! not for thee the golden solstice burns,
Refulgent Cerea!—at the dusky hour15
She seeks with pensive step the mountain-bower,
Bright as the blush of rising morn, and warms
The dull cold eye of Midnight with her charms.
There to the skies she lifts her pencill'd brows,
Opes her fair lips, and breathes her virgin vows;20
Eyes the white zenith; counts the suns, that roll
Their distant fires, and blaze around the Pole;
Or marks where Jove directs his glittering car
O’er Heaven’s blue vault,—Herself a brighter star.
—There as soft zephyrs sweep with pausing airs25
Thy snowy neck, and part thy shadowy hairs,
Sweet Maid of Night! to Cynthia’s sober beams
Glows thy warm cheek, polish’d bosom gleams.
In crowds around thee gaze the admiring swains,
And guard in silence the enchanted plains;30
Drop the still tear, or breathe the impassion’d sigh
And drink the inebriate rapture from thine eye.
Cerea. l. 15. Cactus grandiflorus, or Cereus. Twenty males, one female. This flower is a native of Jamaica and Veracrux. It expands a most exquisitely beautiful corol, and emits a most fragrant odor for a few hours in the night, and then closes to open no more. The flower is nearly a foot in diameter; the inside of the calyx of a splendid yellow, and the numerous petals of a pure white: it begins to open about seven or eight o’clock in the evening, and closes before sun-rise in the morning....
The Nyctanthes, called Arabian Jasmine, is another flower, which expands a beautiful corol, and gives out a most delicate perfume during the night, and not in the day, in its native country, whence its name; botanical philosophers have not yet explained this wonderful property; perhaps the plant sleeps during the day as some animals do; and its odoriferous glands only omit their fragrance during the expansion of the petals; that is, during its waking hours: the Geranium triste has the same property of giving up its fragrance only in the night. The flowers of the Cucurbita lagenaria are said to close when the sun shines upon them. In our climate many flowers, as tragopogon, and hibiscus, close their flowers before the hottest part of the day comes on; and the flowers of some species of cucubalus, and Silene, viscous campion, are closed all day; but when the sun leaves them they expand, and emit a very agreeable scent; whence such plants are termed noctiflora.
—from N. L. Britton and J. N. Rose’s The Cactaceae
To which we may add that exceeding beautiful flower of the Cactus grandiflorus, or Night-blowing-Cereus, which, as others of this genus, never opens before seven or eight in the evening, and decays before three or four o’clock next morning: this blows in the month of July; and I can assure the curious, that no plant I ever saw yet appears in this state more beautiful, the flower being near a foot in diameter, of a fine yellow, surrounded with white petals; to this may be added th agreeable odor of the same, which extends to a great distance, but only lasting during the expansion of the flower: indeed, on a vigorous plant, there may be a succession of flowers, night after night, but rarely lasting more than six or eight hours in bloom.
from John Thornton’s A Temple of Flora
Some of the Cereuses are much esteemed for the beauty of their flowers, which are perhaps the more noticed, because they are the less expected from plants whose appearance is so unpromising. Those of the Great-Flowering Creeping CereusP are near a foot in diameter, the inside of the calyx of a splendid yellow, and the numerous petals of a pure white: hardly any flower makes so magnificent an appearance during the short time of its duration, which is one night only; for it does not begin to open till seven or eight o’clock in the evening, and closes before sun-rise in the morning, unless it is gathered and kept in the shade, by which means I have prevented it from closing till about ten. This noble flower opens but once; but when, to the grandeur of its appearance, we add the fine perfume which it diffuses, there is no plant that more deserves your admiration. When it is not in blow, you will know it by the creeping stem, marked longitudinally with about five prominences.
P Cactus grandiflorus Lin. Mill. fig. pl. 90.
from G. D. Ehret’s Plantae selectae
—by Francis Danby
©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
|Class:||12. Icosandria (Twenty Males)|
|Order:||1. Monogynia (One Female)|
|Class:||Equisetopsida C. Agardh|
|Magnoliidae Novák ex Takht.|
ex Bercht. & J. Presl
|Genus:||Selenicereus (A. Berger)
Britton & Rose
(L.) Britton & Rose
In many plants, it is striking that both their leaves and in some their flowers fold up or drop down in the evening and take to something like a rest and fall asleep. This is not only caused by, for instance, the cool evening air, since it occurs in the hothouse just as in the open air: not even merely by darkness, since some plants fall sleep already in the midday in summer. In fact, just like the animalia nocturna who spend the day asleep, thus this is also the case with the flowers of a few plants, e.g., the cactus grandiflorus.... But this seems to be a requirement of periodic recovery, just like the sleep of animals.
—from J. C. Volkamer’sHesperidum Norimbergensium
Had our correspondent been acquainted with the Linnæan system, he would have spared himself the trouble of the preceding remark.—The plant, called by Florists the Night-blowing Cereus, is the very plant to which we alluded, the Cactus grandiflorus of Linnæus —the Cereus scandens minor polygonas articulatus of Miller’s Dictionary; or, which may be more satisfactory to our Correspondent, the Cereus Americanus major articulatus, flore maximo, nocte se aperiente, & suavissimum odorem spirante, of Volkamerus. As to the notion of its blowing only ‘one night in the whole year,’ it is as ill-founded, as were the superstitions about the blowing of the Glastonbury thorn on Christmas eve. It is true, that no one flower survives the night which gave it birth, neither can any human art preserve it beyond the destined hour of its fall: but then there is a succession of these flowers, some blowing on one night, and some on another. It blows only at night, the flower is usually in perfection at midnight, and dies away as the light of the morning approaches.
‘Queen of the dark, whose tender glories fade
In the gay radiance of the noon-tide hours.’
‘That flower, supreme in loveliness, and pure
As the pale Cynthia’s beams, through which unveiled
It blooms, as if unwilling to endure
The gaze, by which such beauties are assailed.’