Epiphyllums go largely unnoticed during much of the year, when their unassuming, leaf-like stems are biding time and gathering energy. But when spring arrives, an unforgettable show begins! In April and May, these tropical plants burst into their full glory, with large, jewel-toned blossoms that are anything but wallflowers.
Ranging in size from 1 to 12 inches (2 to 30 centimeters) across, the blooms of the “orchid cactus” come in brilliant reds, creamy whites, deep oranges, bold yellows, and tantalizing pinks and purples. Most of them are hybrids, patiently grown and cultivated by avid epiphyllum enthusiasts; but the true species native to Central and South America and Mexico are no less stunning.
Although they are found in tropical jungles, epiphyllums are indeed cactus species that make a living by growing in the forks of trees and in rock crevices, feeding on vegetative matter and capturing moisture from the humid air and frequent rain showers. But as their name suggests, they are epiphytic, living with a host plant without harming it, as opposed to parasitic plants that invade their hosts.
The Safari Park's new Epiphyllum Trail, located between Walkabout Australia and Condor Ridge, is a beautiful tribute to these surprising plants. Created by the Park's horticulture team and maintained with the help of dedicated San Diego Epiphyllum Society volunteers, it includes more than 600 of these eye-catching plants, with names like Sparkling Burgundy, Candy Barr, Ice Follies, Obsidian Queen, and Greek god.