Southern Agenda

Queen of the Night

Illustration: Tim Bower

A night-blooming plant that opens just once a year is worth toasting, according to generations of gardeners—especially in Louisiana and Mississippi—who have hosted watch parties for a cactus called the night blooming cereus. Slowly, after sunset in the summer, the pinkish leaves that surround the slender green bud unfurl, revealing long white petals. Native to Central and South American jungles, the cereus made its way through trade to the Deep South. Master horticulturist Felder Rushing recalls his great-grandmother’s plant, which came from Eudora Welty’s garden. “People had parties for it because that’s just what we did,” he says. “The porch was somewhere we could cool off, and that was a time to relax. As a kid, I was too fidgety and would rather catch lightning bugs.” But for those who do have the patience, some nurseries, such as Baton Rouge Succulent Co., sell it, or a friendly neighbor might just invite you over for a garden cocktail one special evening.