if the Night Blooming Cereus isn't a Cereus?

Leaving aside all the cereus/serious puns…I started looking at some exotic plants and was amazed by this one plant ccommonly alled the Night Blooming Cereus. Turns out there’s a lot of confusion on the web and in the history of naming this plant. I’ve seen various, seemingly decent to me, sources claiming it is an epiphyllum or a selenicereus and there seem to be a lot of related plants that don’t specifically have the white bloom, night bloom and/or fragrance the NBC that I was first intrigued by has. (The quirky feature of the plant that I’m trying to track down is that it is fragrant, blooms only at night, blooms rarely, and has giant white flowers. Apparently, the flowers are so amazing that people will have night long parties to watch it bloom … ok, lots of drinking probably goes on, too.)

So, any light people can shed on this is welcome. Not for the faint of heart if you’re new to plant taxonomy, I’m guessing. It’s not my area by a hundred miles and even after a few hours of reading various websites I was not sure what the definitive answer was. Maybe there isn’t one? (Adding to the confusion: some sites imply or state that this plant could have only originated in the New World. Others claim that it came from Asia (or maybe just confusion over where their cuttings came from).)

Ultimately, my goal is to make sure I’m buying the right thing, but I’m curious as to where it fits into all these related plants, too. Thanks!

Don’t have an answer to your question, but I have to agree that the plant is worth owning strictly for its rare blossom. I have several in my house, and the opening of that huge, pungent blossom is indeed an occasion (party/photography time). It blooms only at night, and each blossom lasts only a few hours, then dies.

Here’s a photo, from my eBay store. (Scroll down for the larger image.)

When we lived in the Northeast, we had one. We’d move it out on the deck in the summer and back inside for winter, until it got too big to handle.

Yeah, we had a party the night it bloomed. My wife figured out that after the party, if she cut the flower off and put in the fridge, it would last several days. Really beautiful blossom.

Of course, out here in Arizona, we plant them in the garden, and also have several other cacti that bloom in profusion at night.

The reason they do this, I’ve read, is that all desert plants know how to conserve moisture. As much more is lost through the blossom than the rest of the plant, they conserve by night blooming. Out here they are mostly pollinated by bats rather than bees.

You really don’t have enough information to sort this out…however, you can probably satisfy yourself by googling ‘Cereus night blooming perfume’ which will give you a number of species to consider…then select the genus and species name and google it under images… e.g. Cereus or better yet contact the Missouri Botanical Gardens… http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantinfo.shtml

missed adding in the google images the species name to the genus eg Cereus grandiflorus…the one thing about googling images, however, is you can not be sure that the person posting the image has correctly labelled the plant…

The naming issues seems to be the problem beyond the net, too. I guess I thought there was agreement among botanical professions and researchers that had one name per species of plant. Apparently, plants are getting reclassified all the time, hence the confusion. Add into that a bunch of lay people and marketers applying (sometimes intentionally) a common name to similar but actually different plants (kind of like real estate agents expanding the definition of a popular neighborhood to include a new development near it but in another neighborhood). Finally, add into that the problem of hybrid cultivars that actually bring to plants species together, and you’ve got a mess.

At least that is what I’m starting to understand when looking for this plant.


I had a cactus that had similar flowers, The white petals in an overlapping row, and a center of hundreds of white stamen that gave the flower a pompom type bloom. The flowers were about six inches across. The stamen were about the size of sewing thread, and the smell was fantastic. It almost smelled like a rose. I had up to 5 flowers open on a night from about midnight until an hour after sun rise. I took pictures and got people to come on over at midnight. I hope you find the particular one you want.