20 October 2020

Epiphyllum anguliger

I’ve grown only two plants in the genus Epiphyllum. Decades ago on Noe Street I had an Epiphyllum oxypetalum with nocturnal flowers so fragrant that one blossom would perfume the whole flat. I had it in a west window; and it grew so large that it was pressing the ceiling, so I put it out in the garden, expecting it to become a tree. It didn’t, but rather went and died on me.

Then about ten years ago a friend gave me a start of the Epiphyllum anguliger; and after three years it produced a blossom that, unlike the oxypetalum, opens before full darkness and remains open until noon the following day. It also has a pleasant fragrance, but not nearly as strong as the oxypetalum.

Its finest attribute, though, is that on several occasions blossoms have been fertilized and set fruit. This gave me an opportunity to edit the Wikipedia entry for Epiphyllum anguliger to better describe the tasty fruit and provide a photo of it.

Then, last year, just as I’d become accustomed to increasing numbers of blossoms, the damn thing went on strike and produced not a single bud. Well, I thought, at least I got to photograph and eat some of its fruit before it stopped blooming.

I was inspecting it daily for buds last month when finally, I spotted one and another and another until I counted a dozen. Then I started holding my breath because usually about half the buds shrivel up and drop off when they’re less than an inch long. Not this year. In fact I lost only two buds and ended up with ten blossoms that opened on two successive nights. I put it out on the table in our courtyard for the two nights and days the blossoms were open so others could see the remarkable display, and seven of the blossoms got fertilized and set fruit thanks to being outside with all those critters.

For the next few months I’ll be playing my warm, moist breath over the fruits to help them ripen.

A note on taxonomy: At some point in the last couple of years one of those nosy botanists, unwilling to let good enough alone, did some molecular research and discovered that the E. anguliger should really be classified in the genus Disocactus. For the time being, I’m continuing to call it an Epiphyllum since hardly anybody knows about the reclassification.

Surely you didn’t think I’d fail to post a photo of the bloom display. This is on the second day when the second night’s blooms are drooping and the night before’s are spent.

Epiphyllum anguliger
Epiphyllum anguliger
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