Monday, February 28, 2011

Queen of the night

A year ago, my friend gave me a cutting of the Epiphyllum Oxypetalum. The cutting was floppy and unimpressive. I simply chucked it in a large pot of soil and propped it up with a metal stand. It grew very slowly, flopping over the metal stand like a sickly plant.

Then suddenly, a small flower bud appeared last week. I wasn't expecting much out of this little bud but when I walked into my garden at 5.30am this morning, I was surprised to see a large white flower. It was so impressive, I quickly grabbed my camera.

I've come to learn that the flower rarely blooms and only at night. Just as mysteriously, it wilts before dawn.

The Chinese idiom 曇花一現 (tan hua yi xian) uses this flower (tan-hua; 曇花) to describe someone who has an impressive but very brief moment of glory, like a "flash in a pan", since the flower can take a year to bloom and only blooms over a single night. Therefore someone described as "曇花一現" is generally understood to be a person who shows off or unexpectedly gains some achievement and is thought to be an exception or only lucky.

I took another peek before I left my house at 6.30am. True enough, the gorgeous bloom had already wilted. I was so lucky to witness it's short moment of glory.


  1. It will be fun if you realise it earlier, and see how the bud swells over weeks, and on that particular night it opens up progressively reaching maximum by midnite and closes up slowly and bows to sunrise.... huh the fragrance is wonderful!. The malays call it bunga bakawali.... It is worth to propagate a few.

  2. Wow, you're right! The process must be really interesting.

    I have often witnessed the opening of the spectacular dragon fruit flower at my parent's place. Really quite amazing.

  3. Wow, that's a lucky sighting! Imagine if you missed seeing the bloom, you would have to wait another year!