Saturday, February 18, 2012

All for that one Night

There was a sudden and heavy excitement in the air and shouts of joy just outside our house one evening, several years ago.  I was preparing for a presentation at office on the next day and this shouting annoyed me.  I went out to see the source of excitement.  Across our compound, in the neighbor's house stood a small plant in a flower pot and it was the center of all this attraction and celebration.  The "Brahma Kamala" plant had flowered that day, and that too on a Full Moon Day.  The beautiful flower was being photographed repeatedly and all the animated discussion was about the flower.

Epiphyllum Oxypetalum is the botanical name for the flower shown in the photograph alongside, downloaded from Internet.  This flower is called "Brahma Kamala" in our area.  It has several names like Dutchman's Pipe, Night Queen, Nishagandhi (Sanskrit and Hindi word for night blooming fragrant flower), Gul-e-Bakawali etc.  It is a type of cactus plant flower.  It is called "Kadupul" in Srilanka, meaning a flower of the forest.  Japanese call it "Beauty under the Moon" and Chinese compare a brief but impressive moment in some one's life to this flower.   This flower rarely blooms and that too only at night.  It is said that the plant flowers only once a year.  But the flower lives for a night only and withers away by sunrise.  The plant lives for a year to give out a flower after a year and the life of that flower is one night only.  All for that one glorious night.  

This is an all white flower as can be seen in the picture.  A slightly different variety of this plant found in Mexico is said to have red outer petals and the flowers have an unpleasant smell instead of being fragrant.  The atmosphere on the day the flower bloomed in the neighbor's compound was full of fragrance.  I mentioned about this fragrance two or three times when a friendly lady from another neighborly house pulled me aside and told me to keep quiet and not to talk about the fragrance.  She further explained that it was not the fragrance of the flower that filled the atmosphere, but the perfume generously sprayed by another lady in the group on her person.  I do not know till today whether it was a fact or it was due to jealousy.  I also do not know the real fragrance of the Brahma Kamal flower as I have not been able to see another one bloom since then.

Oxypetallum flower is a one night story once in a year.  There is a palm tree in Lal bagh, Bangalore which flowers once in sixty years.  This tall tree flowered about ten years ago and anyone visiting Bangalore wanted to see that tree with the rare bloom in sixty years.  Unlike the Oxypetalum  flower's one night life, this palm tree flower was entertaining the visitors for more than a month.  I had to make four visits to Lalbagh during that month, with the guests and each visit was preceded or followed with a Masala Dosa in the nearby Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, popularly known by its short name, MTR.  Probably the palm tree was celebrating its "Ugra Ratha Shanti", or sixty-first birthday and our feast was regularly arranged in MTR!

Talking of flowering once in sixty years, I recall a news item in "Deccan Herald" last month, on 18th January 2012.  It was reported that all the Bamboo trees in in the forest of Koppa taluk in Karnataka had bloomed fully at that time.  There is an apprehension that the crop may perish completely as the flowering of Bamboo trees also happens once in sixty years!  Once the Bamboo trees die after flowering, they do not grow for ten years.  Birds which live in the Bamboo grooves have to migrate and find place elsewhere.  There is also a possibility of  wild fires due to the dry bamboo shoots and leaves.

Whether it is a one night life of Brahma Kamal or one and half month long visible flower of the Palm Tree or even the once-in-sixty year flowering of bamboo trees, nature has its own secrets and surprises for us.


  1. Even I had this plant Brahma Kamal, after the buds comes out every night you have to keep a watch, otherwise you may miss the flower.

  2. Very interesting write up about the rare flowers. I also had the occasion to witness the flower of the palm tree which blooms ones in 60 years.

  3. Delightful to have read this. It made me think of all those moments in my life that may metaphorically equal the flowering of the Bramha Kamala. Brief and rare, needless to say. But then, that's what makes them precious. Thank you ever so much for this beautiful and fragrant account.

  4. What a wonderful explanation and humor about perfume(I laughed).
    Brought back other memories.

  5. wonderful creation of God and beautiful narration. Thank you.

  6. wonderful indeed. i was also witness to the flower that blooms once every 60 years.

  7. Wonderfully written!