Genus Epiphyllum

    Leaf cactus, also called ORCHID CACTUS, the genus Epiphyllum, of about 15 species, family Cactaceae, native to tropical and subtropical America, including the West Indies. The plants are mostly epiphytes (perched on other plants) but sometimes grow from the ground. Common names are leaf cactus--for the mostly flattened, nonspiny stems that function as leaves--or orchid cactus--for the spectacular large flowers of many colors. These names also refer to hybrids often grown in cultivation. Flowers are red, white, or yellow, on tubes up to 38 cm (about 15 inches) long, usually nocturnal, and often fragrant; they are among the largest in the cactus family. Many species have edible fruit.  (from Britannica on line)

    The species we have is nocturnal, and is grown in a big pot.  It shoot up very long stalks of "leaves" (see Picture 1) in early spring.  These new shoots will grow flowers next season, some of them can indeed grow flowers in the same season.  Flowers become visible on the edge of the blade leaves during early summer (see Picture 2).  It takes only a few weeks to grow into beautiful flowers with a long neck hanging on the leaves (see Picture 3).  A big plant can usually grow as many as 20 flowers, and 5-10 flowers is quite common.

    This picture was taken around midnight one day in June 1997 using a digital camera, lightened with a 100-W light bulb.  The image has been precessed with a significant brightness and contract.  We are very happy about the result!  The flowers are about 5-6 inch when fully open, and give a VERY STRONG aroma enough to cause allergic response!  One time we had
   nearly 30 flowers on the plant, a beauty you can only imagine.  But, at least you have already seen the picture of the flowers!  The beauty and aroma of the flowers can be very good reasons for growing several plants in your backyard and in big pots.  There is even a better reason for my girls to love this plant--- the flowers can be used to make a excellent dish and a dilicious soup (but only if you like slimy foods like orkra), best with chicken broth and sliced chicken breast.  Yes, the dish and the soup are VERY VERY sticky and thick, and still give the strong aroma!  We always collect the flowers around midnight when they are fully open, and keep them in the refrigerator.  The aroma can be kept for a few day in the fridge.  Never wait until the next morning to collect the withered flowers for the dish or soup, because the aroma is gone when the flowers wither!  Another good thing about these flowers is that they can be very good pictures for greeting cards.  If your birthday is today, here is a card for you!  Happy Birthday!

    You may also want to take a look of other flowers we have.  How about orchids?  (Sure!)