Gardeners' World: Monty Don shares tips for planting seeds
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The rare Amazonian Moonflower – which opens at sunset and closes by sunrise – has spread wide open much to the surprise of botanists at Cambridge. Officially known as the Selenicereus wittii, the cactus is believed to be the first of its kind to flower here in the UK. The Moonflower is typically found in the depths of the Amazonian rainforest and is seldom seen in the outside world.
And yet, tens of thousands of people gathered online to see the Moonflower spread its petals at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden on Saturday afternoon.
Glasshouse supervisor Alex Summers said: “It was awesome, it was really awesome.
“I think it’s one of those moments where you’ve kind of been expecting it and you’ve seen maybe a couple of images, but it’s more or better than anything we could have expected.”
A webcam has been trained on the Moonflower for 11 days now and the live feed is still going strong on the CUBotanicGarden YouTube channel.
How to watch the UK’s first blooming Moonflower:
Courtesy of CUBotanicGarden, you can watch the Moonflower cam in the embedded video player above, free of charge.
And since the glasshouses are currently closed for refurbishment this is the best, and only, way catch a glimpse of the open flower.
But hurry up! The Moonflower’s petals have already started to close and there is no telling when the spectacle will wrap up.
Moonflowers only flower for one night and one night only, with the spectacle lasting about 12 hours.
Although this typically happens in the nighttime between sunset and sunrise, this particular flower chose to flower during the day.
According to the garden’s director, Professor Beverley Glover, these things tend to happen “at their own pace”.
She said: “I’m not as surprised as some might be, as plants have a habit of doing their own thing.”
Professor Glover also took part in a Facebook Q&A session on Saturday, where she fielded questions about the flower’s smell, pollination and colours.
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When asked what the flower smells like, she said: “It’s not like I thought it would be actually.
I’ve never seen one of these flower before either.
“It’s quite subtle but sweet, so you kind of get it in wafts.”
The smell has been described as a “beautiful sweet-smelling fragrance” while the flower blossoms but it turns foul after two hours.
The Moonflower belongs to the Cactaceae cactus family, which includes some 1,750 known species.
The plants are epiphytic, meaning they rely on other structures or plants to grow.
The Moonflower is usually found in the swampy rainforests of the Amazon near Manaus, Brazil, where their large, flattened leaves attach themselves to a host plant.
The leaves grow in a spiral around the host, as seen in the Cambridge glasshouse.
This flower came to the UK from the Bonn Botanic Garden in Germany and is attached to a water chestnut tree.
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