The night-blooming cereus, aka Selenicereus grandiflorus, is a flowering, climbing cactus common in tropical areas, where it's treasured for its fragrant and fleeting beauty. (Flowers bloom just once a year, after nightfall, and are often wilted or gone by the next morning.)There are fine specimens to be found in public throughout Orlando, including a whopper at Mead Botanical Garden, and proud plant parents throughout the region are known to post snaps of their backyard babies when their annual blooms appear. The plant has even inspired its own local Facebook group, "Night-blooming cereus of Orlando," with more than a thousand members.
But there's one to rule them all – the overwhelming mass of cereus vines on a tree at the corner of Weltin Street and Hardy Avenue is such a wonder that she's been named "Queen Weltin" by the dedicated petal-peepers who anticipate her bloom every spring.
As group admin Charlotte Vernhes warns, Queen Weltin is on private property – so don't trespass. (Most are willing to worship from behind the fence, some posing for selfies with the Queen.) And if there are any realtors reading: Many members of the group are concerned that the house is in foreclosure, and worry that new owners might take down the tree.
We launched a friendly competition among members of the group for the best photo of the blooms this year. Here are the top four winners as voted upon by the group, plus another few entries that, among them, capture the breadth and height of the Queen as well as her sweet power, what a friend recently called "a sugar cube in this bitter cup." We could all use a sip or two of that.
- Photo by Michael 'Tipso' Lothrop
- Photo by Matthew Monczka
- Photo by Cicely Scheiner
- Photo by Erin Hearn
- Photo by Leif Boman
- Photo by Heather John