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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Brahmakamal/ Night blooming Cereus/ Indian Orchid

Today I will write about a favorite of mine, the Night blooming Cereus also called brahmakamal in Maharashtra.
I had this plant for five years and just when ready to give up on it, the plant bloomed. And oh, what a flower!

Initially the buds appear as though they are leaf buds, gradually rounding to the flower bud shape and grow in size till they are the size of your palm.
A few days before flowering, the bud stalk starts to turn till the bud is upright.

The night of flowering is eagerly awaited, I make it a point to have finished my chores and keep tabs of the blooming in progress.

The bud starts opening by 9pm and is in full bloom in an hour. And that is when you get the fragrance! I had five flowers blooming on the same night once and the fragrance pervaded inside till my kitchen.
This flower cannot be described. I am unable to post the fragrance, you will have to grow this plant and realize it for yourself...

Till then happy viewing

Unfortunately all good things must come to a pass. Hence the flower blooms only for 3-4 hours after which it closes and becomes limp by the morning.
There are some common misconceptions regarding this plant. One being that is difficult to grow, flowers only once in a year and requires hilly regions to enable it to bloom.
The plant typically flowers once or twice in the monsoons. I have successfully grown it in Mumbai in a pot which is 12" wide, the size commonly used for roses. Though it asked for a lot of patience as initially you will see only the green leaves/ stems; but then no pain no gain. A handful of compost or cowdung every 2-3 months is all that I used for nutrients.
Propagation is easy - a stem or leaf( I still don't know what they are) will give rise to new plant.
This plant is different from another (Saussurea obvallata) also called brahmakamal which flowers once in 14 years and grows in the Himalayas. A google search will throw up the pictures of both the species. You can decide for yourself which is worthy of its name..
Till my next post happy gardening!


Unknown said...

Hey I would love to have a stem or a leaf-I want one as well. These plants are from south america and extremely hard to find. Where did you get it? If you pollinate the flowers, you'll get dragon fruits!! Could you please help me with a piece of stem??

chitra said...

I didn't know that dragon fruit comes from this plant! I have never tried to get the flower pollinated.
The plant is very common in India. You should be able to get it from any nursery.

chitra said...

The dragonfruit plant pictures I saw on the web are not like my plant. The fruit is formed on prickly cactus type plants. My plant has smooth, non prickly leaves/ stems. Also, one site mentioned the flowers being open at dawn, which has never been the case on my plant.
That said, maybe if the flower does get pollinated, maybe I will end up with a different type of dragon fruit!