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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - September 20, 2008

From: Austerlitz, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: General Botany
Title: Night-flowering plant that blooms every five years
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What plant flowers every five years at night?

ANSWER:

OK, Mr. Smarty Plants gives up—what plant flowers at night but only every five years?

We know of several night-blooming native flowers, for example:

Acanthocereus tetragonus (barbed-wire cactus) is found in Texas and Florida and blooms mid-summer to fall.

Peniocereus greggii (nightblooming cereus) is found in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona and flowering spring through summer.

Ipomoea alba (moonflower) is found in Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.

Oenothera macrocarpa ssp. macrocarpa (Missouri primrose) (syn. Oenothera missouriensis) occurs in the central U. S.

Mirabilis multiflora (Colorado four o'clock) occurs in the southwest U. S.

But, so far as Mr. SP knows, each of these bloom every year, given normal environmental conditions.

There are any number of native biennial plants (for instance, the thistles in the Genus Cirsium) that bloom the second year after germinating and there are several native monocarpic plants (they bloom once, then die—see the answer to a previous question) that bloom after the plants are several years old (the century plants—Agave americana and Agave parryi, for instance).  Another native plant that lives a long time before it blooms is Frasera speciosa (monument plant) which may wait for 20 to 40 years before it blooms and dies.  Many of these plants may bloom simultaneously.  This same phenomenon also happens with the non-native bamboo species that may bloom only every 40 to 80 years.

So—I do not know of any native North American plant that is night-blooming and flowers every five years, nor could I find any non-native plant with these features.  If you know of one, or if you have any more information about such a plant, please let us know.

 

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