Also known as, Queen of the Night
Scientific Name: Peniocereus greggii
Synonym: (Cereus greggii)
A usually inconspicuous member of the Sonoran Desert National Monument’s plant community is the Night-blooming Cereus cactus. Most of the year it resembles a dead plant stem intertwined with the stems of other desert plants such as the creosote bush. Once a year, if the conditions are favorable, the Night-blooming Cereus produces an aromatic and spectacular white bloom. This plant only blooms at night and late the next morning the flower have disappeared.
The Night-blooming Cereus if found Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of southern Arizona, east to western Texas and south to northern Mexico.
It typically grows desert flats and washes between 1000 and 5000 feet, most often in the shade of desert shrubs like the Creosote bush. The stems or branches of the cactus looks like the stems of the plant where it resides. It is thought that this growth habit helps conceal the cactus from herbivores.
These very fragrant white trumpet-shaped flowers, bloom for only one night in June or July, reach four inches in diameter and can be 8 inches long. The flowers are followed by three inch long red-orange fruit.
The Night-blooming Cereus has sparse, angular, lead-gray, twiggy stems about 1/2 inch in diameter. Very small spines grow along the four to six ribs of the woody stems. It can be erect or sprawling, reaching seven to eight feet long, but is usually half that length.
The fruits are edible and are used by wildlife and by local people.
Interestingly, this plant has a large edible tuber-like root that usually weighs between four and fifteen pounds. The Tohono O’odham and other Native Americans used the root as a food source.
This plant was formally more abundant, but because of widespread agricultural and residential development much of its habitat has been permanently lost.
In addition it has been over collected in many areas do to its showy flower which makes it a favorite in many gardens. This plant is available from nurseries throughout southern Arizona.
The Night-blooming Cereus is protected on all public land in the United States and the international treaty, Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species.
It is illegal to collect this plant on all public land in Arizona.