A rare Amazonian cactus, the Selenicereus wittii, is about to bloom for the first time in the UK at the Cambridge University Botanical Garden (CUBG). The rather unorthodox blooming experience of the moonlight cactus is currently being streamed on a webcam, and when it flowers – expected some time this weekend – it will show a rare glimpse into the 12-hour blooming period, which normally starts at sunset and is all over by sunrise.
“I’m so excited to see and share this most unusual flowering. It’s very rare to have this plant in our collection and we believe this is the first time the Moonflower has flowered in the UK,” said Alex Summers, Glasshouse Supervisor at the CUBG in a news release.
The Moonflower is native to the Amazon rainforest, where it is commonly found wrapped around tree trunks. The current specimen was acquired from the Bonn Botanic Garden in Germany back in 2015 and is now housed at the botanical gardens inside a glasshouse to provide the correct conditions.
The CUBG's Twitter is providing updates on the current progress of the moonlight cactus flower, which stands as follows: the current length of the plant is 19 centimeters (7.5 inches). They expect once the plant reaches 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) the blooming should begin. It could even be a special surprise for Valentine's day, which is this weekend.
Once the cactus blooms, it will open up a white flower that reaches around 27 centimeters (10.5 inches) in length, lasting for just 12 hours. It sends out a heady sweet-smelling scent as it blossoms at sunset to attract two particular pollinators, two species of hawkmoth with extremely long proboscises (tongues).
The really cool thing is that you can watch this moment as it takes place – that is if you are going to be around – potentially between sunset and sunrise UK time (GMT/UTC) most likely on Sunday, February 14.
There are plenty of ways to check if the flower action has started. "The team have set up a webcam in the hope they can live stream the flowering to share with other enthusiasts. Updates and information can be found via the Garden’s Twitter and Facebook feeds – @CUBotanicGarden – or by checking the webcam page via the Garden’s homepage," the CUBG said in its news release.
So, if you are bored of lockdown (who isn't), haven't experienced anything new in months, and really want to see a rare Moonflower bloom for just 12 hours, tune in to the live stream below, and keep checking the social channels of CUBG for regular updates regarding when the blooming might begin so that you can have the popcorn ready, or shall we say wine?
Just in case it's not enough to observe such a rare moment here on Earth, check out the first-ever flower that bloomed in space here.