Flowers That Bloom In The Night
( Originally Published 1902 )
MISS HELEN GOULD, at her country home at Tarrytown, has one of the most beautiful collection of plants in the United States. Her father, before her, was passionately fond of flowers, and spent a small fortune on the plants and greenhouses. Twenty years ago he bought a singularly rare plant in Belgium. It was a night-blooming cereus, of the cactus family. Then it was only a foot high ; now, with its thick, prickly stems, in covers twenty-five square feet and requires a box twelve feet long to hold it. It never had a flower upon it until a few seasons ago, when it bloomed on a Monday and continued to do so every night during the week. One night there were a hundred and twenty-four flowers opened. Miss Gould had lanterns hung at convenient places, and, in keeping with the proverbial kindness of her heart, invited her neighbors in to share with her the pleasure of witnessing the rare flowers bloom. During the week there were more than five hundred blossoms opened. The buds began to open at dusk and were in full bloom by midnight.
The plant grew for twenty years before it produced a single flower.
Things that are to live a long while take a long time for development. There are weeds that grow with a strong stalk and a gaudy bloom, to be chopped down by the first hard frost; the oak, that intends to live a hundred years, takes a long time to mature. There are little creatures which come to their maturity in one day, to die the next. But man, with his possible fourscore in view, advances very slowly to the maximum of his power, spending from a third to a fourth of the period of his earthly existence before he is ready to begin his business or profession. They have to live as long as the cactus plant did before they bring forth their first flower.
There are flowers of virtue and piety which bloom only in the night. They begin to unfold at dusk, as the light is chased away by the shadows of the night, and they come into the perfect beauty of full-bloom at midnight. God often makes the darkest nights bring forth the brightest stars ; the blackest midnight of affliction and sorrow produces the loveliest flowers of heaven.