This is hopefully going to be the start of a series on the diverse and unusual forms of life in this world.
Extremophies are life forms that can do very well in unusual or "hostile" situations due to unusual physical set-ups. Sometimes this means they don't do as well in typical circumstances. Extremophiles inhabit extreme environments, colonize stony, non-living areas first and lead the way for other life, and sometimes inhabit unusual roles in an ecosystem.Cereus:
Cereus (also called Night-Blooming Cereus, or Queen-of-the-Night) is a tough small cactus (of the Peniocereus
family) that grows in the Sonoran Desert. It looks about like a bundle of sticks, but instead of being the typical brown or beige, it's a light gray-green. They usually grow in the middle of a bush like a creosote
making it well-nigh invisible and elusive.
Creosote bush in bloom
Cereus plant in foreground
It's one of those plants you can have a fun time keeping your eyes peeled for.
But for 2 or 3 nights of the year - it changes entirely. It puts out white flowers the size of your palm or larger. They are night-pollinated so the flowers have a definite scent. The people in my neighborhood would keep an eye on all the known cereus plants near the road, and would take "cereus walks" where in the evening we would walk around the neighborhood and congregate at whoever's cereus was blooming. There is always photigraphy and soft voices, discussing the news but in a way that I can only describe as soft, or maybe quiet. Although it was as much a tone as a lack of loudness.
These flowers become a important nectar source for sphinx moths and bats. Symbiosis is incredibly important in the natural world - two organisms each giving something and getting something, but what they are getting is more than what they gave. In this case nectar (food) for the ability to spread pollen and make the next generation of plants. The plants and animals have evolved over time to be more suited to eachother. The cereus bloom is white and strong-smelling to make it easy to spot in the night. The moths and bats have evolved long tongues to reach down into the flower. Which in turn, gets longer to make sure they get plenty of pollen on their faces. It's not as pretty or peaceful as it sounds necessarily.
The moths also have a part of their brains that tells them to go to shiny white things which may be why they behave so dangerously around porch lights.
The secret behind all this? Cereus cacti have a huge tuber underground - about the size of a watermelon where they store water and sugar. This is how they make it through the year - waiting for the right season.
(Incidentally,I leaned a lot about managing resources from cereus. And then promptly dismissed what I learned in order to "pass"/survive. If you have limited resources or capacity to do certain things, like talk, you don't have to be going at full-capacity all the time, just some of the time really well at the right time.)
Drawing of cereus root