Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Epiphyllum oxypetallum (Brahmakamal) : Orchid Cactus- An interesting plant

Dr Ichha Purak
Professor, Ranchi Womens College
Ranchi, Jharkhand, India
Epiphyllum oxypetalum is a very interesting and unique plant. It belongs to Family Cactaceae. It is commonly known as Night blooming Cereus, Queen of the night, Lady of the night as its beautiful Lotus like flower blooms late night. In India it is called as Brahma Kamal ( ब्रह्मकमल ) and is treated as a sacred plant. It is popularly known as Orchid Cactus as the flower has orchid like beauty and plant resembles cactus in habit. It is known by different common names in different parts of the world viz. Jungle cactus, Dutchman's Pipe
Botanical name : Epiphyllum oxypetalum (DC.) Haworth The generic name Epiphyllum of the plant refers to flowers borne on leaf like phylloclade and the Specific name oxypetalum refers to acute petals. For systematics position click here.
Epiphyllum oxypetalum plant is native to Sri lanka where it is known as Kaduphul ,it is believed that plant blooms rarely and that too late night. In India this plant has been reported from different parts like Mumbai, Bangalore,Chennai, Ranchi ,Uttrakhand etc. The plant flowers generally in rainy season from mid June to mid October. It has diverse distribution and grows wild in tropical rain forests. Epiphyllums are indeed true cacti, but are more often labeled as "Epicacti" or "jungle cacti" to differentiate them from related desert flora. A slightly different type is found in Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and is locally described as Phyllocactus purpusii . It is also found as a cultivated plant in some parts of America such as California either as Epiphyte or Lithophyte. Here the flowers bear carmine red coloured outer tepals and instead of sweet fragrance has slightly unpleasant smell.
Cultivation and propagation
It is propagated by rhizome, herbaceous stem and leaf cutting or layering. Prefers acidic soil and filtered sun light. It can also be grown indoor .To grow the plant , a Phyllocade is planted in the soil or is placed horizontally on soil. The cut phylloclade can also be dipped in water . In about three weeks adventitious roots come out , then can be planted in pot containing soil. ( Figure - 1 ) From margins of phylloclade bulbil like structures grow ( Figure-2).

Figure: 1-Cut phylloclade dipped in water 2- Adventitious roots coming out from cut end 3- Mature Epiphyllum oxypetalum  plant in a pot 4- Phylloclade 5- Young flower bud emerging from  serrate margin of phylloclade 6- Bud with peduncle and  a bloomed flower
 Brief Morphological Description
Stems are branched and erect, climbing or sprawling, profusely branched, primary stem cylindrical, 1-4 m long, flattened laterally. Secondary stems (which look like leaves) are flat, elliptical , acuminate, about 30 cm x 12 cm in size, with wavy and crenate margins (Figure- 3 ).
Flowers are produced from flattened portion having brownish receptacle 13 to 30 cm long . Flowers are 12-17 cm wide ( Figure -4,5 & 6 ) bearing green slightly angled short narrow about 10 mm long arching bracteoles , outer tepals linear, acute, 8–10 cm long reddish to amber; inner tepals oblanceolate to oblong, acuminate, to 8–10 cm long and 2,5 cm wide, whitish; stamens many (about 100) white, filament delicate slender and weak; style greenish white or white, 4 mm thick, as long as inner tepals, when flower bloms, later on become longer and comes out of tepals ends ends pale yellow or white multilobed stigma, ( Figure -10). Round pollen grains are with thick exine (Figure-11). Fruit is oblong, 12 x 8 cm, purplish red, angled. The flower is nocturnal with fragrance dispering in its surroundings .The principal odour component in the aroma is of benzyle salisylate.

Figure: 7- Flower half  bloomed  8- Flower ¾ bloomed 9- Full bloomed flower showing many stamens and carpels 10-Multilobed stigma 11- Magnified pollen grain 12- Two flower  buds on long stalks
Blooming of Flower
Orchid cactus flower starts blooming after sunset from 7 p m onwards and takes about two hours to full bloom,about 8 inches in diameter ( Figure 7,8 &9) and remain open through out night. It closes in the morning before sunrise appear drooping on long stalks (Figure-12) Since the flowers are predominantly pollinated by bats and large moths. They have large pure white star-like flowers with lovely fragrance to help their pollinators locate the blossoms by moon or star light. (watch video)

Video : Brahmakamal.mp4 Blooming of Brahmakamal  by Dr. Ichha Purak via Youtube 
Features of special interest (Peculirities about the plant )
This flower, named after Brahma, the God of Creation (as per Hindu mythology), blooms only for one night in the entire year, somewhere between mid June and mid October. The blooming lasts only for a few (10 ) hours. Brahmakamal is related with the story of how Brahma emerged from Vishnu’s naval in a lotus flower. It ia also believed that it is a sacred flower and does not bloom in all homes and in the homes where it blooms are considered lucky and is a sign or notation of prosperity. There are some interesting stories about the Brahmakamal. It is believed that it is the flower in which Hindu God Brahma resides and the place where it blooms will be the receiver of glad things. People who pray to God while the flower is blooming get their wishes fulfilled. There is a belief that the Brahmakamal should be gifted and should not be sold or bought from the market . If video recording of blooming is performed one can experience a very pleasant and shoothing music in complete silence.As its blooming is rare ,people invite their friends and relatives to cherish watch this wonderful and special event
Medicinal uses
The phyllocaldes contain some active ingredients and show antibacterial activity ( Upendra and Khandelwal,2012).The stem is also used medicinally to cure dropsy and cardiac affections.Vietnamese people use petals of the faded blooms to make soups which are supposed to have tonic and aphrodisiac medicinal properties.
Confusion about the Brahma Kamal flower
Some from northern part of India claims that the flower of Saussurea obvallata of family Compositae to be Brmaha Kamal. Which is a very beautiful flower of valleys in Himalayan ranges. However there are people who claim that flower of Epiphyllum oxypetalum (Orchid Cactus), which blooms at night, to be Brahma kamal.
Anderson, E. F. 2001. The cactus family. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, USA
Bentham,G and J D Hooker 1862-1883 Genera Plantarum 3 Vols. L Reeve & Co. London
Cronquist,A. 1981. An integrated system of classification of flowering plants. Columbia University Press,New York
Engler,A and K Prantle 1887-1915 Die naturlichen pflanzenfamillien. 20 volumes
Wilhelm Engelmann,Leipzig EpiBase - Selenicereus, Epiphyllum and other epiphytic cacti
Epiphyllum oxypetalum From Wikipedia,the free encyclopedia
Hutchinson,J .1973 The families of flowering plants . Oxford University Press,Oxford
Ichha Purak 2011 An interesting plaant, Brahmakamal (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) : Published on on October 22,2011.
Upendra,R S and Khandelwal P 2012 Assessment of nutritive values,phytochemical constituents and biotherapeutic potentials of Epiphyllum oxypetalum: International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences :Vol.4, Suppl 5, 421-425
Author expresses her pleasure to have Orchid cactus ( Epiphyllum oxypetalum ) in her garden and she enjoy capturing photographs and recording of amazing event of blooming of Brahma Kamal, spine less cactus plant bearing beautiful white lotus like flowers arising on margins of phylloclade.


  1. I have two of these plant.One is around one n half year old just started budding, now in monsoon. What extra care is required for good flowering. the plants are on the terrace.

    1. As the plant prefers filtered sunlight, it should be placed in such a location where sunlight reaches at least some time in a day. Water logging should be avoided.

    2. Thank you very much for the information..

  2. Got one plant with so many leaves and its about five year old. Noticed two buds either side of one leaf and within three days one has fell down..the other one is healthy and coming up. How many days it will take to fully open up?

  3. It will take about 15 to 18 days to bloom

  4. Hell i live in uk and i have got this plan just waiting to be bloosom can't wait i wake up every day

    1. Wow, I trying to get one for myself, I live in UK too! Where can I get one? Please advice!, thanks:-)

    2. Wow, I trying to get one for myself, I live in UK too! Where can I get one? Please advice!, thanks:-)

    3. contact me Rufus...........+918606576910

  5. Is the epiphyllum oxypetalum the same plant as the brahma kamal?

  6. How can I check that the plant is genuine???

  7. WHERE CAN I GET THIS Epiphyllum Oxypetalum IN INDIA.

  8. I planted a leaf in dec 2012. I hs grown into multiple stems with many leaves. Last month 5 buds bloomed. There are 10 buds about to bloom in next 8-10 days. - Rohit

  9. I had one plant for last 10 years but saw bloom only once in all these years but today morning I saw four buds . But only one bloomed at night remaining three didn't .Is it because I touched them ?

  10. I was given a 2 leafed branch but I'm not sure on how to propagate it, do I just stick it on to soil?

  11. Does anyone here have an idea about the temperatures it survives in? I live in Virginia, and had left the plant out, and now that fall's almost here, should I bring it in or leave it out?

  12. why does this flower bloom only at night???

  13. Can you provide me exact address details for Online Garden Store India to buy this plant.

  14. From where can I buy this. And what is thr special care to be taken for it...

  15. I have two of the Orchid Cactus Epiphyllum Oxypetalum.... both over 20 years old, they are big but have not bloomed in a few years... I'm thinking of breaking each of the plants into 4 separate ones and replanting... thoughts or comments on doing this?

  16. Hi! My plant is nearly two years old, and it has been blooming quite frequently. It flowered twice in December. Is there any reason? I'm doing a project on its unusual flowering.

  17. I have some small cuttings ready for sale. I am in Australia. Contact me

  18. In the text above , it says the plant can be grown indoors..Will the plant bloom if kept indoors?? And I recently moved to a new house where I don't get direct sunlight,will it affect my plants growth??

  19. Can i place/keep Bharama kamala Plant inside the home? by doing so there will be no harm for the family members?? Please advice

  20. I have a plant ,possiblly of Brahma Kamal . Pl.tell how it be identified by shape of leaves.

  21. team,
    this has grown in our garden at Bidar, Karnataka,,, and blooms in night,,, very big when fully open 2 wide palm covers.. we by now got over 40 flowers this season, rarest site for many , who visited our garden to have a glimpse ...


Your Comments.