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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of June 8, 2001

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This week, facts about the night-blooming Queen of the Night. This desert cactus unveils its flower only once a year, with a royal display of sight and smell.

Transcript

TOOMEY: Any day now, the Tohono Chul Park in Tucson, Arizona, will send out its 24 hour alert notice about a botanical event that occurs only once a year. It's the 10th annual celebration to mark the blooming of the cactus flower called Queen of the Night. Hundreds of people travel each year to the Sonora Desert and find their way through lantern lit paths to watch the flower unfurl.

Before blooming, the cactus plant looks pretty much like a dead bush, and you might not even give it a second glance if you passed it in the desert. But in early June, just one day before blooming, the cactus flower's buds will double in size, looking like a fist stretching up against a green, waxy coating. When the cactus finally blooms, it displays several large, creamy white, trumpet-shaped flowers that give off a heavy, sweet aroma.

But the Queen of the Night isn't the only plant for which people have waited with baited breath to bloom. Last month, The University of Washington played host to the corpse flower. Its namesake comes from the near unanimous consensus that, when in bloom, it smells like rotting flesh.

And, for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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