November 2016


kadupul Flower
November 2016




The Queen of the night

Words: Nethu and L. J. Mendis Wickramasinghe
Photography: L. J. Mendis Wickramasinghe and Gayan Prasanga Peiris


Pure white petals, spread out just like those of a white water lily. Garlanded by the long leaves of the cactus, which create a trail of a bitter scent, a magnificent flower blooms just one night each year. Known as 'Kadupul' in native Sinhala, it is commonly called the "Queen of the night". The blossom emits a soothing scent that encapsulates many, yet even for the busy pollinators its pleasure can only be enjoyed for a few hours on a single night.


Once bloomed at night it wilts by dawn and the next flower will mature from the same plant a year after.


When the plant begins to bear a bud its growth process takes not just a few days, but several months. On the day the blossom is ready to bloom dramatic changes take charge of the bud. If the tips of the bud have begun to split you can be sure the flower will open that very night.


Blossoming commences after dusk, once the hot rays of the sun have finally subsided. The much awaited moment begins in an unhurried manner. It is the cacti's painstaking process towards perfection, one of the astounding spectacles of nature. When the Kadupul flower is ready to bloom, being at the right place at the right time to capture the enchanting moment is vital.

The kadupul flower blooms only on one night once a year. By dawn it is a wilted bloom.


The petals unfold one after the other at a meandering pace, trying to prolong the grand moment to add more theatrics. Gradually the air begins to fill with the unique and calming scent. Swaying hither and tither in the night's breeze, the final petals open out just before midnight. Thus, the central arrangements of the stamens where the pollen sacs are held are revealed. From dusk to midnight, amazingly the whole process of opening is complete by midnight. The air is thickly scented while the Kadupul flower sways in all its glory.


Moments later the bloom sags and the petals change in appearance, almost as if the plant wished to hide this beauty from terrestrial beings before the break of dawn. And as the sun awakens, all that is left as evidence of the grand spectacle is a faded flower.

buddhists believe The blooms attract the celestial nagas who offer these flowers to the buddha.


The plant itself is an epiphyte, meaning it grows harmlessly on other trees, as it requires the support of a steady surface to lean on. Its leaves are fleshy and outwardly scalloped and have dangling ariel roots. Native to the rainforests of Mexico, only two species can be found in Sri Lanka. Epiphyllum hookeri is a small flower with thin petals, and long leaves. The other more common variety Epiphyllum oxypetalum bears much larger flowers, with more petals.


Kadupul is cultivated in both the dry and wet parts of Sri Lanka. Although not a native plant, due to its sheer rarity and unique fragrance, the Island's culture has bonded with this flower to an extent of reverence. The bloom is said to attract the Nagas from their heavenly abodes for they alone offer these flowers to the Buddha.


Rare Kadupul blooms are indeed splendiferous gifts from nature!

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    A Kadupul flower in full bloom

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    A large healthy colony of Kadupul

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    Kadupul plants needs the support of a steady bark

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    Green outwardly scalloped columnar leaves

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    An aerial root suspends off a leaf

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    Leaves produce aerial roots

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