Bloomin’ miracle: Cactus sprouts 40 rare flowers
by Hilary Butschek
August 25, 2014 04:00 AM | 4197 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Robert Marisay gazes at several buds on his 12-foot tall night blooming cactus Thursday. In the past 10 years, the plant has only produced 1 to 2 blooms during a growing season. <br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Robert Marisay gazes at several buds on his 12-foot tall night blooming cactus Thursday. In the past 10 years, the plant has only produced 1 to 2 blooms during a growing season.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Blooms on the cactus Thursday. <br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Blooms on the cactus Thursday.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Robert Marisay, a retiree from east Cobb, said he’s not a gardener. That’s why he was surprised when his night-blooming cactus sprouted about 40 blooms this summer.

The flowers only bloom between 2 a.m. and 9 a.m., said Marisay, 66, a retired union sheet metal worker.

“The flowers open up after dark and by morningtime, they’re already wilted, and they’re gone,” Marisay said. “When you wake up in the morning, if you’ve missed them, there’s just wilted blooms left.”

He was lucky Thursday morning when nine of the flowers opened at the same time.

“This is the only time something like this has happened,” Marisay said.

The blooms of the Cereus repandus, the scientific name for the night-blooming cactus, are usually short-lived and uncommon, but this year the cactus is bursting with flowers.

“Most generally, (the cactus) does one or two blooms,” Marisay said. “No one seems to know why there are so many.”

Marisay said there is no way to know what day the blooms will open up.

“It may be tomorrow. It may be the next day, but it will not be too far off,” Marisay said because the plant has to be kept inside in the winter.

Marisay said the cactus doesn’t get a special fertilizer.

“I just dump garbage in it, so I have to laugh because people ask, ‘What do you feed it?’” Marisay said. “I dump some bacon grease and coffee grounds in there periodically.”

The 12-foot-tall cactus that sits on Marisay’s back deck has attracted about 10 visitors, from neighbors to strangers, during the summer to see its pure white blooms.

“When we come home from dinner, sometimes they’ll be notes on the picnic table saying someone stopped by to take a look at it,” Marisay said.

Charlie Brown, a master gardener of Cobb County, said he went to see the cactus when it bloomed at 5 a.m. Thursday.

Brown is a part of the Master Gardener group in Cobb that brings together people who plant flowers or vegetables to take classes on best practices and learn more about the trade. Interested gardeners can sign up with the group in the Cobb extension office.

Brown said he had not seen this type of cactus before because they are uncommon and native to Peru.

Brown said he was impressed by the flowers, even though he had to use a flashlight to see them.

“I have a different type of cactus, so I was very interested in seeing the blooms,” Brown said. “They did not disappoint.”

Marisay, who lives in east Cobb with his wife Virginia, said he can’t explain the phenomenon.

“I don’t have a clue why it happened,” he said. “That’s strictly up to Mother Nature.”

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