Reader’s wildlife photos

We have wild vegetation (well, domesticated wild vegetation) photos today, sent by Darrell Ernst. His notes are indented:

We had a great surprise in one of our planter beds recently, and I thought you might find it interesting.

About 10 years ago while out shopping with the kids—they were about 5 years old—we came across a display of those little colorful grafted ornamental cactus plants. The kids had to have one, so we let them each pick one. Each of these was a small cactus “trunk” with a brightly colored round cactus grafted on top. Within a few weeks the colorful balls fell off. Instead of just throwing what was left away, (the trunk part) we just set them in the back of one of our planter beds in the front yard under a robellini palm (Phoenix roebelenii). They were no more than about 3″ or 4″ tall (7.6 cm to 10.1 cm).

Fast forward 10 years and one of these cactus remnants has grown up one of the trunks of the palm tree with parts hanging nearly all the way  back down to the ground. In all that time it was a plain, simple cactus. Then one morning I walked out the front door on my way to work and was stopped in my tracks by a large white bloom. I had never noticed the bulb forming and this was a complete surprise. I took pictures but unfortunately the bloom was already deteriorating and mostly closed. Within a couple of days it fell off.

I then started to check the cactus regularly for any signs of another bud, and a couple weeks later I found another starting to grow. I watched it daily waiting for it to bloom so I could get some good pictures. One morning it had bloomed! Unfortunately, like the first one it was already pretty sad looking and closed up.

A couple of weeks later there was another bud forming. Again, I was determined to get some good pics as soon as it bloomed. Now, I know that you have probably already twigged to the obvious, and I should have as well, but for some reason the obvious answer never occurred to me. Until just the other night. That night for some reason, probably because she knew, my daughter went out the front door at about 11 PM to take a look at the flower bud that I was sure would bloom the next day. And then came right back in and ran around trying to find her camera. “The flower bloomed!” Of course. It’s a night blooming cactus, as so many cactus are.

After finally looking it up on the internet, I found out that this cactus is a Dragon Fruit Cactus, aka pitaya (Hylocereus undatus). The blooms are big, and beautiful. But they last only the one night in good condition and quickly deteriorate.

As it turned out, my new phone, a Motorola Moto G Stylus ended up taking better pictures than the digital SLR. All of the attached pictures were taken with the phone.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 5, 2020 at 8:10 am | Permalink


    I recently learned that oak trees undergo a “mast year” every five years, and have noticed aspen over produce seeds not every year, so I wonder if a process by this cactus -a C4 plant, IIRC – operates on a time scale greater than a year. Also, I wonder if the pollinator has a role as well.

    • W.Benson
      Posted October 5, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      I have a large pitaya cactus growing on a wall (SE Brazil). It flowers at night maybe 2-4 times a year. A dozen or two flowers open all at once on the same night. Sometimes all produce fruit and at others none. My plant may be an obligate out-crosser. (Some varieties self-pollinate.) Flowers are visited by a large number of pollinators, including bats, hawk moths, and bees, seeking nectar or pollen. I suspect individual plants synchronize flowering to fall near a full moon, on the principle that bats — the probable primary pollinator in Mexico and Central America — would be more efficient on moon-lit nights.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 5, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        I hope ours continues to grow and prosper. I’d love to see a dozen or more blooms all at once.

        And we do have bats in the area! Though I’ve no idea if they are a nectar eating species.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 5, 2020 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Good question. I need to read up on this cactus to figure out if there is anything I should be doing for it to help it prosper. All the years prior I pretty much ignored it.

  2. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted October 5, 2020 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Beautiful plant. I grow another variety, a gift from a neighbor, and I don’t know its name, and I don’t know how to upload a photo of it here. Sigh.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 5, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Thank you.

      To show a picture in the comments it has to be hosted on the internet somewhere and then you use hypertext in your comment to provide a link to the picture. For example you can upload your picture to a site like Google Photo or any of a number of other photo sharing sites.

      To offer Jerry pictures for consideration for being included in a post, such as a ‘Readers Wildlife Photos’ post, you can email him the pictures.

  3. Posted October 5, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    What an excitingf story! Congratulations for keeping the “ugly” bases of those grafted cacti. I have never heard of anyone else doing that.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 5, 2020 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Thanks Lou.

      I must admit, as much as anything else we kept them because the kids wanted to.

  4. rickflick
    Posted October 5, 2020 at 9:01 am | Permalink


    • darrelle
      Posted October 5, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Thank you rickflick!

  5. Jeannie Hess
    Posted October 5, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    If there are flowers there could be fruit. Keep watching.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 5, 2020 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      I’m hoping. So far we’ve had 3 blooms, all within the past few weeks. Each bloom did have a fruit grow just behind it. Or at least I think that’s what they were. But they’ve all been very small. So small that there isn’t really anything to eat, not even to sample.

      I’m not sure if this is because this is a variety that doesn’t have edible fruit like the dragon fruit you find in a store, if it is but the plant is not mature enough, or if it is but it isn’t getting something that it needs.

      • Posted October 5, 2020 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        It may not get pollinated unless you have bats. You could pollinate them by hand but they may not be self-fertile.

  6. Posted October 5, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Very good! I love these simple surprises and lessons from nature.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 5, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Yes, me too. That 1st morning when I was stopped in my tracks I ended up being late for work. Had to get my wife up to show her, find the camera, take a bunch of pictures . . .

  7. Jeff Lewis
    Posted October 6, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    That looks an awful lot like the plant my parents have that they’ve always called a night-blooming cereus. Though looking that up on Wikipedia, it seems that’s a name applied to multiple species, so I’m not sure if theirs is exactly the same as yours.

    At any rate, it was a fairly infrequent bloomer when I was a kid (only 2 or 3 times while I was growing up). But, we kept it inside as a potted plant, so when it did bloom, there was no missing it. The fragrance was strong enough to wake you up.

    Now that I’m all growed up and living on my own, apparently it’s begun blooming a lot more often – several times per year. Not sure what they’re doing different, but they’ve moved a few times in that time span.

    I have a couple that I grew from cuttings. They root very readily in a cup of water, but mine have yet to bloom (after a bit more than 20 years that I’ve had them).

  8. Posted October 7, 2020 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    What a thrill this must be/have been, Darrelle. The blooms are magnificent! Thanks for sharing this lovely quest with us.

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