Epiphyllum oxypetalum

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Epiphyllum oxypetalum
Epiphyllum oxypetalum flower.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Genus: Epiphyllum
E. oxypetalum
Binomial name
Epiphyllum oxypetalum
  • Cactus oxypetalus Moc. & Sessé ex DC.
  • Cereus latifrons Zucc.
  • Cereus oxypetalus DC.
  • Epiphyllum acuminatum K.Schum.
  • Epiphyllum grande (Lem.) Britton & Rose
  • Epiphyllum latifrons (Zucc.) Pfeiff.
  • Epiphyllum purpusii (Weing.) F.M.Knuth
  • Phyllocactus acuminatus (K. Schum.) K. Schum.
  • Phyllocactus grandis Lem.
  • Phyllocactus latifrons (Zucc.) Link ex Walp.
  • Phyllocactus oxypetalus (DC.) Link
  • Phyllocactus purpusii Weing.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum (Dutchman's pipe cactus[2] or princess of the night, queen of the night[3]) is a species of cactus and one of the most cultivated species in its genus. E. oxypetalum rarely blooms and only at night, and its flowers wilt before dawn. Though it is sometimes referred to as a night-blooming cereus, it is not closely related to any of the species in the tribe Cereeae, such as Selenicereus, that are more commonly known as nightblooming cereus. All Cereus species bloom at night and are terrestrial plants; Epiphyllum species are usually epiphytic.


Epiphyllum from Greek epi- "upon" + phullon "leaf"

Oxypetalum = with acute petals

Vernacular names[edit]

In India, E. oxypetalum is called Iruludavare (ಇರುಳುದಾವರೆ) in Kannada, meaning 'night lotus'. It is believed that the wishes of people who pray to God while the flower is blooming will be fulfilled. Also it is called Gulebakavali in Ancient Tamil. It is called Kadupul flower in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka’s native blossom)

The Chinese chengyu (four character idiom) 曇花一現 (tán huā yī xiàn) use this flower (tan-hua; 曇花) to describe someone who has an impressive but very brief moment of glory, like a "flash in a pan," since an Epiphyllum oxypetalum plant might bloom only once a year over a few days. Therefore, someone described as "曇花一現" is generally understood to be a person who shows off or unexpectedly gains some achievement and is thought to be an exception or only lucky. This flower also has a rich history in Japan, where it is known as the 月下美人 (Gekka Bijin) or "Beauty under the Moon".[citation needed] In Sri Lanka it is called "Kadupul" (කඩුපුල්) which means the flower from heaven. In Indonesia it is called "Wijaya Kusuma" which means "Flower of Triumph".


Close-up of an openEpiphyllum oxypetalum flower

This species is closely related to E. thomasianum and E. pumilum, but quite distinct from them.[citation needed] In 1909, C. A. Purpus collected a slightly different type in St. Ana, Orizaba, Mexico. It has carmine red outer petals and the flowers have an unpleasant smell, rather than being fragrant. It was originally named Phyllocactus purpusii, but is now included within this species.


The side view of an open Epiphyllum oxypetalum flower

Stems are erect, ascending, scandent, or sprawling and profusely branched. Primary stems are terete, up through 6 metres (600 cm) long, flattened laterally, and ligneous at their bases. Secondary stems are flat, elliptic-acuminate, up through 30 cm x 10–12 cm. Stem margins are shallowly through deeply crenate and undulate. Stems appear to be waxy therefore cutin may be present. Cutin reduces water loss from stems. A gel-like substance oozes out of stem cuts. Stems contain much water-filled tissue.

Flower and fruit[edit]

Flowers grow on flattened stems and are up through 30 cm long and 17 cm wide, nocturnal, and very fragrant. The principal odor component in the aroma is benzyl salicylate. Pericarpels are nude, slightly angled, and green. Bracteoles are short and narrow up through ca. 10 millimetres (1.0 cm) long. Receptacles are up through 20 cm long, 1 cm thick, brownish, and arching. Outer tepals are linear, acute, 8–10 cm long, and reddish through amber. Inner tepals are whitish, oblanceolate through oblong, acuminate, up through 8–10 cm long and 2.5 centimetres (25 mm) wide. Stamens are greenish white or white, slender and weak. Styles are greenish white, pale yellow, or white, 4 mm thick, as long as inner tepals, and with many lobes.

Fruit are oblong, up through 12 x 8 cm, purplish red, and angled.

A young Epiphyllum oxypetalum stem.
Cross section of an Epiphyllum oxypetalum stem under a microscope.


Epiphyllum oxypetalum is native to Southern Mexico and to extensive areas of South America.[2] It is widely cultivated, escapes from cultivation in tropical areas especially in the southeast Asia,[4] and has become naturalised in China.[2]


Epiphyllum oxypetalum is an easily cultivated, fast growing Epiphyllum. It flowers in late spring through late summer; large specimens can produce several crops of flowers in one season. This is a commonly grown Epiphyllum species.

Detail of the reproductive parts of a bloom


  1. ^ The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species, retrieved 6 August 2016
  2. ^ a b c USDA GRIN Taxonomy, retrieved 6 August 2016
  3. ^ "Queen of the Night: The Flower That Only Blooms ONE Night A Year - Beyond Science TV". www.beyondsciencetv.com. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  4. ^ Zhen-yu Li and Nigel P. Taylor, "Epiphyllum oxypetalum (Candolle) Haworth, Phil. Mag. Ann. Chem. 6: 109. 1829", Flora of ChinaCS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

Mahmad A, Shaharun MS, Saad B, Dash GK. 2017. EPIPHYLLUM OXYPETALUM HAW. : A LESSER KNOWN MEDICINAL PLANT. INDO AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACEUTICAL SCIENCES. [accessed 2020 March 6]; 4(10). DOI:10.5281/zenodo.1036005.

External links[edit]

Media related to Epiphyllum oxypetalum at Wikimedia Commons