They Only Come Out at Night

The Night-Blooming Cactus Is (Almost) Here

Here are the five best spots in town to see these ethereal flowers, which bloom just once a year.

By Isaac Eger May 26, 2023

1267 Second St., Sarasota

Image: Nic Alabasic

You know summer is here when two things happen: The tourists leave and the night-blooming cactus flower arrives. The flowers are a special treat for locals who stick out the summer heat.

The cactus, scientifically known as Selenicereus grandiflorus, has other names—Queen of the Night, night-blooming cereus—and most of the year it just looks like a knotty mess. But around the end of May and the beginning of June, this non-native, vining cactus, which crawls up into the canopy of trees, puts out large, glowing, white flowers that bloom at night and die in the morning.

The flowers are so large and delicate that they can’t bear the sun, and so they wilt and droop the following morning after putting on a show at night. If they get pollinated, they’ll turn into sweet fruit.

Don’t fret if you didn’t catch a previous night’s bloom. The cactus will keep flowering over the next couple weeks, and Sarasota has a peculiarly large amount of them around town. But where to find them? Here are the five best spots to find big blooms over the next couple weeks.

301 Somerset Ave.

The cactus prefers either cabbage palm or oak trees as its host. I think it's because they offer the most texture for the epiphytic plant to grab hold of. This spot, near the airport, boasts a large oak tree with dozens of flowers that reach a couple stories high. 

301 Somerset Ave., Sarasota

Image: Nic Alabasic

1876 Oak St.

My personal favorite. This specimen puts out scores of flowers at a time. The palm tree is draped with so much cactus that it triples in girth. A must see. 

1876 Oak St., Sarasota

Image: Nic Alabasic

Laurel Street and Payne Parkway

This is probably the most social spot. It's on public property, so you'll find more passersby. Two palm trees carry these flowers, but I've noticed some Virginia Creeper taking over the eastern side. Feel free to yank off that invasive vine. And oh yeah, look out for fire ants. 

Laurel Street and Payne Parkway, Sarasota

Image: Isaac Eger

1839 S. Orange Ave

Here we have the cactus climbing up a pine tree, the only one in town I've ever seen host the flowers. 

1839 S. Orange St., Sarasota

Image: Nic Alabasic

1267 Second St.

Just around the corner from Selby Public Library, these flowers are low to the ground, so you can get your nose right in there and smell how sweet they are. 

1267 Second St., Sarasota

Image: Nic Alabasic

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