Broad-Leafed Epiphyllum…Queen of the Night

My GI Joe sister was telling me about a plant that the flower only blooms once a year, she said that a Lao lady, her Laotian neighbor called her over when it started to bloom in September of last year, it started at 9 p.m, and was fully bloomed by midnight, the flower then died by morning, and the exotic blooms would be soup for the Chinese. The Laotians believe that it only blooms on ‘wan sin, 15 com’, which I don’t know how true this is.

It’s called Broad-leafed Epiphyllum, also known as Queen of the Night, or Tab Hua kai Lei in Chinese. If I remembered correctly, I thought Salat wrote about this flower at LP forum that her mom has one. My GI Joe sister said that Lao people called it Dork Phoy Sien, and watching from the video is not the same as being there in person because of the aroma of the flower, when it opens, the flower sways back and forth as if it was breathing, I’m not sure if the one that she saw was so huge and it was heavy, she was there for 3 hours and feels as if it was alive, moving, and breathing flower. I think for plant lovers, this might be exciting to watch it blooms, but for some might not be, so don’t expect a rush of adrenaline when watching the Youtube video (time: 6.28 mins)

As I watch the Queen of the Night Flower blooms, a Cinderella Story comes to mind where the fairy godmother transformed her into a beautiful princess ‘with a wave of her wand, she turned Cinderella’s rags into an exquisite gown. On Cinderella’s feet were tiny glass slippers. “Remember,” the fairy godmother said, “you must leave the ball at midnight.That’s when the spell will be broken and all will be as it was before.”’ And sure enough, the flower starts to close its petals after midnight.

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25 thoughts on “Broad-Leafed Epiphyllum…Queen of the Night

  1. Nye, this flower is gorgeous. It looks like a Lotus flower in one of the pictures. When you said it dies after it blooms by morning, it reminded me of a century plant I saw. A century plant sometimes only blooms once in its lifetime and then it dies after. It’s flower is yellow and white.

    Didn’t you have some lotus flower in your pond?

  2. Ginger, I looked this up & I think you may have gotten the spelling off a bit. It’s called ‘Broad-Leafed Epiphyllum.” The Chinese part about soup reminds me of a type of flower we like to add to one particular Lao soup, along with some vermicelli noodle & ‘mouse ear-mushroom.’ Wonder what the ‘epiphyllum’ flower taste like in a soup. Have your sister tried it yet? My mom just got three types of mushrooms from Harris Teeter toady, ‘shiitake, king oyster mushroom & shimeji (I think).’ These three together in a soup taste heavenly, and very healthy as well. In fact, shiitake mushrrom contain lots of vitamin D, good for the immune system. One of my goal for this year is to start eating healthy & cut done on some meat. Yes, this is in part one of my individual goal in response to the article of ‘Ideology of East meets West’; it can be applied to what we eat as well, not just what or how we spend our money on.

    From google search…
    “The broad-leafed epiphyllum blooms only once an year. These pure white Flowers open at mid-night and are dead by next morning. Its name has even entered the language as an expression that means “ephemeral”; translates as “beauty as briefly as the broad-leafed epiphyllum.” Many parts of India, people consider it as a rare flower attached with Krishna and wait for hours at night to get a glimpse of its looming. In China the blossoms of tan hua, thought to be good for the skin, are cooked and eaten in soup. They are also used in a medicine said to cure asthma.”

    From wikipedia search…
    “Epiphyllum (“upon the leaf” in Greek) is a genus of 19 species of epiphytic plants in the cactus family (Cactaceae), native to Central America. Common names for these species include orchid cacti and leaf cacti, though the latter also refers to the genus Pereskia. The stems are broad and flat, 1-5 cm broad, 3-5 mm thick, usually with lobed edges. The flowers are large, 8-16 cm diameter, white to red, with numerous petals. The fruit is edible, very similar to the pitaya fruit from the closely related genus Hylocereus, though not so large, being only 3-4 cm long. Epiphyllum species are added to some versions of the hallucinogenic drink Ayahuasca.”

    Way to propagate it…
    “the most popular propagation of Epiphyllum is “leaf” cutting. The leaf can be cut, let it dry for several day, then grow in a well-aerated potting soil. For best results, the cuttings are dipped into a rooting hormone/fungicide (like Rootone) before planting.”

    By the way, if your ‘GI Joe sister’ can cut off a leaf for me, I would like to have one. Ask her for me:))) Thanks again Ginger. Also, I think Seiji would like the fact that epiphyllum can be added to a ‘hallucinogenic drink.’

    Bob:)))

  3. Hi Bill, I’m glad that you like it, it’s very beautiful indeed and thanks for the visit.

    Karmadiva (Laotian Teacher), I thought I heard of the flower from Salat, but I wasn’t sure and I think she said that it only produced 1 flower at that time and her mom’s plant wasn’t that big. These plants in the photos came from CA, she purchased (Bousar) it from the Buddhist Temple. I do have lotus flower in my pond and come to think about it, it only opens during the daytime and fully blooms at noontime, must be the opposite from the Queen of the Night, then the lotus must be the Queen of the Day.

    Bob, thanks for the information and the spelling, I’ll make that correction. When my GI Joe sister told me about it, I had no idea what she was talking about, and she didn’t know it was edible at the time. The plant was Mae Lai and she said that it didn’t open every year and only opens when you are lucky. Since she has this plant, her husband only saw it once, only 2 flowers open before he passed away, and last year it opened many as you can see from the photos. She gave one of the plants to my GI Joe sister, and my GI Joe sister gave part of it to my younger sister. I’ll get some for you because I want one also.

  4. Great pictures Nye! Yes, I did post about this flower way back in LaoPlanet. My mom had some pretty neat blooms, and it started out with just a small cutting from Los Angeles.

    But last winter the great freeze hit our area and the plant is almost gone. We were able to save a tiny section. It’s still growing, but under a mini glass greenhouse now. A friend of my mom’s also gave us some new cuttings, but they are a different variety with smaller blooms. I also bought a flower that looks similar, named the Christmas Orchid. It is much smaller and blooms longer.

    The Lao people have all kinds of stories, and it’s definitely not true about the flower blooming only on “wan sin, 15 com”. One year we got about 2 blooming session, once in spring and again in summer. My mom picked the flowers and we can watch it bloom indoors. Quite a sight to see, but the scent is too strong for me. Some people enjoy this scent. I think the scent is like a cross between lily and tuberose, turned up a notch.

    Btw, I did not know that it’s edible. I’m not sure if I want to try one, just not fond of eating flowers at the moment. 🙂

  5. Hi Salat, thanks for confirming, it’s good to know that I’m not losing my mind 🙂 , now I did remember about the freeze because I thought that it also killed my red flower, but luckily it came back this spring. Our area is a bit colder during the winter months, so any tropical plants have to be kept indoor. I think only the Chinese eat the blooms, according to Bob’s research above, “In China the blossoms of tan hua, thought to be good for the skin, are cooked and eaten in soup. They are also used in a medicine said to cure asthma.”

    I think I would like the smell, maybe one day I will get to smell one.

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  8. I got one in my house. My wife is from Laos. Mine blooms all the time. The flowers die quickly, but they smell great. It likes to be near the light. We had it in a room with little light for a while and it almost died. I want to get some of the red ones. I just wish I could keep it outside. It grows fast and it’s huge. Like part of the family now.

    • Hi Jonathan, thanks for stopping by. I didn’t know that they’ve a red one and goggled to see the picture, it does look very pretty. I have a white one that my sister gave me a clipping and it’s getting bigger now, they do grow fast and can’t wait to see the flower, might take a couple of years.

  9. Mine is white as well. It’s a true Epiphyllum Oxypetalum. The red ones are hybreds I think. They say you don’t have a “Queen of the night” unless it only blooms at night. Mine only blooms at night, and one of the Vietnamese girs that visits is spooked by that. She thinks the blooms are at night because of nocturnal spirits. I’ve heard of people owning them for years and years and never getting a bloom. I suppose I’m lucky. We get up to ten blooms at a time. In my wife’s circles the flowering of this plant is supposed to be good luck and bring or at least indicate incoming wealth.

    It’s much more fun to cultivate a plant when it’s surrounded by a lot of myth and folklore. I love it.

    • Jonathan, the couple that owned the ones in these photos were older couple and they never saw the blooms together, and they had them for several years, but shortly after her husband passed away, she has had flowers since then, she said that her husband loved the plants but I guess he was not lucky enough.

      Lao people think it’s lucky to see the blooms, the lady called my sister over just to go see them open and she said that it’s very spooky to watch because the flowers were so big and they shakes when they started to open, I’d love to see that.

  10. Maybe I can record ours. It blooms all the time. IT goes in spurts. It will have some and then they will die, and then a week or so later, it get’s more.

  11. I have a young one, ten years old, and hasn’t bloomed yet. Probably due to the fact I keep moving…haha. My question concerns the ‘tendrils’. Does anybody know whether or not to cut these? Searching the ‘net’ is exhausting and haven’t found a concrete answer. My theory is that in a domesticated environment they might take away from necessary nutrients. I realize that in the wild they are used for climbing. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

    • Ours is only about 5 years old and it blooms all the time. I have noticed that is blooms more if it’s getting plenty of warmth and sunlight. As a matter of fact, moving it to the basement in my home almost killed it. We don’t trim anything off of it. We really just let the the thing grow freely. It’s a huge beast of a plant now.

    • Liz, I have 2 small clippings from my sister and finally planted in a pot last year. I sat it by the front porch in the summer, but it didn’t grow any, and when I moved it back inside for the winter, it’s sprouting in all directions. It must be an indoor plant, mine seems to do better inside, and I water it once a week.

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    • Hi Kay
      If you know someone that has one ask them for a leaf and put that leaf in a potting compost keep it in doors as its a tropical plant; a lot of light.I have 2 and have just seen them flowering 28 flowers in all.
      Gerald ER Q 07-07-2012

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