By Andrea Crandall
For just one night a year, and for only 12 short hours, the night-blooming cereus, a.k.a. the "Queen of the Night," blooms, but the timing is unpredictable. Typically, the big show takes place in June or July. After their brief time in the spotlight — or the moonlight, as it were — the flowers wilt as dawn approaches. Searching for the sticklike cactuses, which grow in Central and Southern Arizona, can be tough. They're difficult to spot because they blend in with the surrounding plants and grow under desert shrubs. The flowers are waxy and cream-colored and can grow up to 4 inches wide. They have trumpet-shaped blossoms, which give off a sweet, floral scent that's been known to perfume the air as far as a quarter-mile away. While blooming, they attract pollinators such as the sphinx moth. If the flowers are successfully pollinated, the cactuses eventually will produce scarlet-colored fruit.