Florida Royalty

For the past three years, I’ve been fascinated by an ENORMO tree-climbing cactus growing two blocks north of my front door. It winds from bottom to top and back again through the boots of a 30ft tall cabbage palm on the edge of an elderly man’s property. Last night, I convinced Maggie to stroll with me by his VERY busy corner, so I wouldn’t look like a total stalker-wierdo taking pictures of some stranger’s real-estate! 🙄 As she gestured (with appropo “ooohs” and “aaahhs! :)) I happily snapped photos of the epiphytic spiky vine known as Selenicereus Pteranthus:

selenicereus pteranthus

It”s easy to see why S. pteranthus is sometimes called the Snake Cactus! 🙂

selenicereus pteranthus

At the top, several blooms are spent….

selenicereus pteranthus

….and toward the middle, new ones are forming!

Selenicereus flowers open between 10pm and midnight, emitting a strong, vanilla fragrance from trumpet-shaped cups that measure a foot in diameter!  As these cacti age, their cylindrical stems can turn gray-to-purple as seen in the first picture. The shape of the stems varies from angular to tubular or ribbed, depending on a specimen’s maturity and growth rate; to entwine themselves around trees while climbing, they develop adventitious aerial roots.

Horticulturalists suspect this species originated in Mexico and Central America where locals referred to it as the Princess of the NightFlorida is the only U.S. state in which this “royalty” naturalized, primarily in the 5 counties of zone9 and above where the Seminole War and Mexican immigration have had the greatest impact.

As luck would have it, last weekend we saw a bunch of Selenicereus stems scrabbling from the base of a live oak into a beachside street! …

Finally!!! 🙂

Fair game for a cutting:

Princess of the Night Cutting

I was thrilled to find such healthy looking segments with aerial AND terrestrial roots!

When I got home, I halved the longest section again and brushed each freshly cut edge with rooting hormone.  After a few days in a sunny spot on the porch (to callus over,) I planted the cuttings in a single clay pot of fresh cactus soil:

Selenicereus Pteranthus cuttings , potted up

Ta Daa! 🙂 🙂

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that roots develop instead of rot 😉

If all goes well, I’ll have my very own Princess of the Night!  🙂

Until next time……


28 thoughts on “Florida Royalty

  1. What in the world…??? I have never heard of such things! Of course, Florida is the land of strange things, but South Florida takes the cake sometimes. Good luck with your “free” Princess of the Night!

    • They really are WIERD!! Since I posted this it seems I’m noticing them all over the place! I think its really strange that they haven’t naturalzed in Texas or other states bordering mexico; I’ve no idea why FL is “special.” 😉

      • It’s mostly because you guys don’t get such extremes in temperatures, especially in late fall and early winter. Last December, for instance, we had a bad killing frost at the beginning of the month that took out half of my Hyloceureus cactus and all of my hot peppers because I left the vent on my greenhouse open. The reason why I had it open was because outdoor high temperatures the day before were in the mid-eighties, and the cold front blew in with no warning whatsoever. The Florida Panhandle may actually get a little colder than North Texas in December and January, but it doesn’t see the horrible dessicating winds that we get incessantly from December to about the beginning of March.

      • If it helps, a lot of climbing ephiphyte cacti are native to Central America: the famed “dragonfruit” in the exotic fruits sections of some grocery stores are the fruit of one such climber. (If the fruit flesh is white, it’s Hylocereus undatus. My personal favorite to grow, the red-fleshed dragonfruit cactus, is Hylocereus costaricensis.) There’s also the Cereus cactus known as “orchid cactus” because of their blooms, and anybody in Hawaii will tell you that they’re very capable of taking care of themselves so long as they’re protected from freezes.

  2. Speaking from years of experience with dragonfruit, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you’ll probably get good roots in a matter of weeks from that cutting. Most of your climbing cactus do very well in standard potting mixes, and I even had one that tried to root in carpet from a runner that came off a hanging pot. The bad news is that this beast will probably take over. Well, if that’s bad news, I can live with it, as I love climbing cactus.

    • I love climbing cacti, too!!
      The first year i was here, I bought a tiny rhipsalis micrantha which would have grown great If I’d known more about it’s cold hardiness. We had an unusual 3 week spell of temps that went below freeing for a few hrs each night, and I neglected to bring the pot inside. It did rejuvenate and is now slowly spreading along the ground.

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