Queen of the night, the size of my outstretched hand, is ethereally beautiful.
Queen of The Night, Nightblooming Cereus, tan hua (Chinese), 9 O'Clock Flower (Sabah/Malaysia) and many more names are awarded to this delicate and beautiful bloom. This cactus flower reminds me of my parents who stayed up to wait for the buds of the Selenicereus grandiflorus to catch their beauty at their fullest at 9 pm. When I checked on the buds of my pot of tan hua (given by my in-laws') at 9 pm last night, they were still not fully opened. It was 10 pm when they opened to their fullest and I realized that the delay was due to the one-hour backward adjustment when East Malaysia time was synchronized with West Malaysia's more than ten years ago. Do you also realize that 6:30 am in the morning these days (height of summer in the northern hemisphere; Sabah is slighlty above the Equator) is like 9 am in December, bright and already warm?
We were summoned to my in-laws' at 11 pm Saturday night to see the blooming of their tan hua (a name which when applied to a person means a someone who makes a big but brief impression). The flower's Chinese name is very descriptive of this flower because it rarely flowers and when it does, it is awesomely beautiful and scented but only lasts one night. The tan hua's ephemeral life evokes a kind of mysticism and romanticism. Each time I see a tan hua open, I am reminded of how brief life is, even when things are going perfectly well. It is a flower that epitomizes the briefness and bittersweetness of life.
MIL has about 10 pots of 40-year-old tan hua. More correctly, they are descended from plants propagated over the years from the original plants. Last Friday, there were about 20 blooms and the next night, about 27. That isn't the record because many years ago, we counted over 50 blooms in one night. I took dozens of photos of the beautiful flowers but in the end, only those photos taken with the flash turned out good. There's still so much to learn about photography, especially in low light.
I think the tan hua is related to the dragonfruit, another cactus. I remember my mom cooked a pork and tan hua soup once although she doesn't remember it now. I still remember how it tasted--pleasant and a little bit slimy on the stalks. I wonder if they are good stuffed with mozzarella and deep-fried, like zucchini flowers?