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The Greatest Show On Earth

The Greatest Show On Earth

Get ready to wave goodbye to our dragon fruit season in the next couple of months! The cooler weather is putting a chill on our buds, flowers, and fruit production. The plants themselves? Well, they're not going to win any beauty contests. These cacti are prickly personalities, with enough spikes to ward off an echidna. Even though I suit up in long sleeves and gloves, I can't escape a few prickles and scratches on my arms when picking the fruit.

Now, let's talk about the real stars of the show: the flowers. They always manage to dazzle me with their breath-taking performance, bringing an instant smile to my face. You can tell when the season is heating up because the branches become dotted with buds. As they mature, they start to form a very elongated growth, that unwinds like a pinwheel.

It’s been said that dragon fruit flowering is naturally timed with the phases of the moon. I can attest when there a full moon, flowering is in abundance. Most flowers make their grand entrance at night, but you'll spot some daytime displays too. Our varieties don't need hand-pollination, so the job goes to our team of flying friends—honeybees, native bees, flies, spiders, and beetles.

When fully bloomed, the flowers could rival the size of your dinner plate. The petals are paper thin, and I liken the flower to an orchid – delicate, with a whimsical, romantic appearance. Robert and I often take a casual walk through the orchard just after dusk, holding hands (not) and we are treated to a rare sight. It's like walking through a light show with bright white orbs dotting the landscape. No torchlight needed. But if you want to see what’s happening inside the flower, flick on your torch, and watch the night pollinators hustle and bustle.

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By nightfall, the bees have called it a day and are back in their bed getting their beauty sleep, but they're back early in the morning, buzzing with excitement. They are frantic with delight as they hover at the entrance of the flower, eager to nestle inside, searching for the golden treasure. Honeybees roll their bodies over and around the yellow filaments, catching the pollen on their body hairs. It really is like a day spa for bees. Using their legs and antennae, these clever girls groom themselves by combing all the pollen off their body and storing it in pollen sacs on their hind legs. Then it’s back to the hive to unload, and repeat.

Just when you think the magic will last forever - it doesn't! Dragon fruit flowers are like one-night-only performances. After pollination, the crisp white petals start to take their bow, and 30-35 days later, the fruit takes the stage. The only remnant of the flower is a black, shrivelled little memento stuck to the end of the fruit. But hey, at least we got to witness the show!

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