Rare moonflower cactus plant (Strophocactus wittii) is expected to bloom at the University of Cambridge’s Botanic Garden over the next few days – and a live stream has been set up to capture the moment.
The pretty flower, which grows in the Tropics House, usually opens at night and so a fodder was made so that people could keep an eye on it.
It first flowered in February 2021 – the first time this plant has ever flowered in the UK. More than 500,000 people watched the event online.
“We measure the buds daily. It is currently 18cm long. When this plant bloomed in 2021, the bud was 26cm long. Although this is much smaller, we expect flowering to be imminent because The buds are swelling and the cortex (flower stem) has begun to drop, which is a sign that it is preparing for flowering.
“We first noticed the buds developing about 4 months ago and are now excited to see them bloom.
“We were delighted to see many buds forming over the past year, including one that surprised us last weekend as it bloomed when the buds were much shorter than expected.
“So we are determined not to catch this flower’s attention and capture it on camera for all to enjoy.”
Moonflower flowering is rarely seen in cultivation, with only 16 plants known in botanical gardens worldwide, although it is not uncommon in the wild. It is known to give off a strong scent before the flower opens.
Kathryn is keen to stress that this moonflower is not the same one readers might have at home and is rare outside of her Amazon home.
Katherine is also keen to point out that although this flower’s common name is moonflower, it should not be confused with another flowering cactus plant of the same common name.
“The name moonflower is given to a lot of cacti that people often flower at home,” she says.
This does not mean that they are the same plant! Such confusion is why we always use the Latin name of the plant, and not the common name.
“This plant – Strophocactus wittii – it is certainly very rare in the UK and in botanical gardens in general, outside of its native habitat in the Amazon, so it is always important to use the Latin name.
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