Can You Identify These Night-Blooming Flowers?

SCIENCE

84 PLAYS

By: Bambi Turner

7 Min Quiz

Image: Vizerskaya / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Birds do it, bees do it ... and so do bats, bugs, rodents, lizards and even bears;  yup, we're talking about pollination! By nosing their way towards the sweet nectar inside of a flower or simply traipsing past, over or through the plants, these critters carry tiny bits of pollen wherever they go. In some cases, these helpful creatures may even carry that precious pollen to another plant, where it mingles with the plant's own pollen supply. This cross-pollination process sets off a reaction deep inside the stamen of the flower, resulting in the production of seeds that can one day grow into brand new plants. 

But wouldn't it make sense then, for plants to open their petals wide during the day so that all that pollen is fully accessible? Not always. In fact, a surprising number of flowers stay shut tight when the sun is out, blooming only at night. The reason? Evolution. Just as humans have evolved to walk upright, flowers have evolved over time to maximize their odds of successful pollination. For most species, that means exposing those pollen-coated stamen by day, while for others, it means blooming only in the dark. This could be because the plants have their best chance for pollination success with the help of animals that are active at night, like bats. It can also be attributed to certain plants seeking protection from hungry creatures during the day, blooming at night when the critters that like to munch on them might be fast asleep.

Think you can name the most common night-bloomers? Prove it with this quiz!

What is this flower, which welcomes commuters home after work to waxy white blooms and a sweet fragrance that fills the evening air?

Once known as Polianthes tuberosa, tuberose flowers are now known to scientists as Agave amica. Native to Mexico, these plants consist of stems that rise up to 4 feet tall, with tubular white night blooms rising into the sky. They are so fragrant that they have been used to make perfumes since the 17th century, and Marie Antoinette herself wore a scent made from tuberose.

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It sounds like a bloom from "Little Shop of Horrors," but do you know the common name of this plant that has furry leaves?

Despite its name, the catchfly shown here has little in common with the Venus flytrap. Known to scientists as Silene nutans, the catchfly plant can grow 30 inches tall or more. It produces long, fuzzy leaves and lots of tiny flowers that can range from pale pink to pure white. Each catchfly blooms for up to three nights, showcasing an additional stamen with each bloom to encourage pollination.

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If you don't get this one right, you'll regret it. Maybe not tonight, but soon, and for the rest of your life ... or so says Humphrey Bogart.

This quote comes from the classic flick "Casablanca," which is named for the same Moroccan city that gives the Casablanca lily its name. Often used in weddings, this bloom can be as large as 10 inches with a funnel-like shape. The flowers are white with red stamen and are known for their characteristic sweet scent.

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Part of the sunflower family, this plant gets its name from the color of its stamen. Do you know what it's called?

Berlandiera lyrata, also known as the chocolate flower or chocolate daisy, takes its name from its brown stamen and chocolatey scent. It blooms each night throughout the summer, or year-round in tropical areas, and produces small yellow petals that contrast with the brown bud of stamens they encircle.

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Native to the southeastern U.S., what is the name of this plant that produces night blooms as well as some truly unusual seed pods?

From its glossy thick leaves to its luscious fragrance to its magnificent flowers, the magnolia tree is a true treat for the senses. Growing 50 to 100 feet tall, this tree produces large white flowers with velvety soft leaves. It reproduces via seed pods the size of pine cones, which start off covered in green fuzz before pushing out dozens of bright red seeds as the pod turns from green to brown.

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Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and even Lucifer can name this toxic night-blooming flower. Can you?

The seven species belonging to the Brugmansia genus are commonly known as angel's trumpet. Despite this moniker, every part of these plants is toxic. Largely extinct in the wild, some gardeners grow angel's trumpet for its beautiful trumpet-shaped blooms, which can be 20 inches long or more and range from white to deep red in color.

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Sometimes known as the sword lily, this South African native has a spicy smell that some compares to cloves. Do you know what it's called?

Gladiolus tristis, or night gladiolus, blooms by night and wilts or closes during the day. Its flowers grow atop a tall, fine spike, and the blooms themselves can be white, cream, red or purple depending on the species.

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Officially known as Periclymenum, name this climbing vine that lends a sweet smell to summer nights.

Honeysuckle vines produce large numbers of two-lipped flowers in shades of white and pale yellow. While the popular Graham Thomas variety is one of the most aromatic, all varieties of honeysuckle release a greater degree of fragrance at night than during the day in order to attract pollinators.

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Ipomoea alba looks a lot like morning glory, but its name connotes night rather than day. Know its common name?

Also called moon vine, the moonflower is so-named not only because it blooms at night, but also because it takes on the round shape of the full moon when its petals are fully open. Ranging from 3 to 5 inches in diameter, this delicate blossom can be white or pink. While native to tropical and subtropical countries, it's now grown by gardeners around the world.

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Sweetly scented and brilliantly colored, Mirabilis jalapa blooms by night then wilts and dies as the sun rises. What is its common name?

Mirabilis jalapa blooms in the late afternoon or evening, earning it the nickname four o'clock. The plant itself is a small shrub growing 2 to 3 feet tall, while its trumpet-shaped blossoms range from pink to yellow to white.

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This family of plants not only produces beautiful flowers but is also used to manufacture tobacco products. Can you name it?

The Nicotiana plant's flowers resemble petunias and come in shades ranging from white to pink to deep red or pale green. By night, they reveal their blooms and release a powerful fragrance that pollinators love.

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If you don't exactly have a green thumb, you might like the low maintenance night bloomer shown here ... but do you know what it's called?

Tiarella or foamflower features cone-shaped sprays of white or pink flowers atop tall spikes or spines. With a delicate construction like a dandelion, all it takes is a strong wind to send this plant's petals scattering. Gardening novices may be enticed by the ease of growing this plant, which is naturally resistant to many pests.

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What is this popular pond plant that produces a huge red flower made up of dozens of petals?

Nymphaea antares, also known simply as antares, is a night-blooming plant that grows on the surface of ponds and other still waters. It consists of a leaf the size of a pizza, from which grows a bright red flower measuring 7 to 8 inches across. The bloom emerges each night, then closes before the sun comes up the next morning.

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Epiphyllum oxypetalum only blooms for a few nights each year. Do you know the name of this plant?

The Queen of the Night, or the Dutchman's pipe cactus, is a spectacular flower native to southern Mexico. Its scalloped green leaves contrast perfectly with its brilliant white blossom, which is shaped like a funnel and can be 10 inches long or more the few nights a year that its petals finally decide to unfurl.

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Know the name of this species, which belongs to the Philadelphus genus and smells just as sweet as it looks?

So-named because its flowers look so much like citrus blossoms, mock orange is a shrub that can range from a few feet to more than 20 feet tall. It blooms in the evenings for a few weeks at a time, producing white four-petaled flowers up to 2 inches in diameter.

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This cactus can grow 30 feet tall in the wild and can stretch even higher with the right support. Do you know its named?

Cereus repandus, affectionately known as the Peruvian apple cactus, is a massive member of the cactus family. While its body ranges from gray-green to blue-green, its night-blooming flowers are a soft shade of cream when they bloom at night to attract pollinating bats.

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Part of the Solanaceae family, which also includes potatoes, this shrub can grow a dozen feet tall or more. Know its name?

Night-blooming jasmine, or jessamine, is a shrub with long, glossy green leaves and impressive height. Its fragrant flowers unfurl with the moon, revealing small star-shaped blossoms of white or pale green.

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Scientists know this plant as Echinopsis oxygona, but can you guess the common name of this flowering succulent?

A tubular succulent with very long, fine spines, the Easter lily cactus produces some impressive blooms when the sun goes down. The flowers on this plant are funnel-shaped, can vary from white to pink in color and can be 5 inches or more in diameter.

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With nicknames like devil's trumpet and hell's bells, it's no surprise this plant is extremely poisonous if consumed. Do you know what it's called?

The Datura genus includes nine plant species, all of which are night-bloomers and all of which are so poisonous they would put Snow White's apple to shame. Measuring up to 6 feet tall, Datura plants produce night-blooming funnel-shaped flowers in shades like white, pink, purple or yellow.

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It's part of the asparagus family, but can you name this species known for its stiff, sword-shaped leaves?

Native to the Caribbean, the common yucca plant can now be found all over the world. Its stiff, spiky leaves conceal a central stem that can be up to 8 feet long. Tiny white flowers bloom from this stem by night, then droop or wilt as the sun rises.

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Despite its gorgeous clusters or blossoms, this plant is labeled an invasive species in many parts of the U.S. Can you guess what it's called?

The roots of garden heliotrope, or Valeriana officinalis, are often ground into a powder and used in herbal sleep remedies. While herbal sleep users are busy dozing, however, this plant is busy blooming, producing clusters of pink and white trumped-shaped flowers.

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This Aussie native is part of the mint family and grows up to 3 feet tall. Guess the name of the plant shown here.

Plectranthus argentatus, or silver spurflower, takes its name from its leaves, which are covered in fine silvery hairs that make the plant look more silver than green from a distance. Its small tubular flowers emerge at night, displaying petals in shades of blue, white or mauve.

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Even in the dark, you can identify the flowers on this plant by their spicy vanilla scent. What is the name of this species?

Evening stock, or Matthiola longipetala, grows 18 to 24 inches tall and produces purple and white flowers between one-half and one-inch wide. These four-petaled blossoms emerge at night, emitting a sweet-yet-spicy fragrance, only to wilt, droop or die off as the sun comes up.

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Also known as sundrops or suncups, name this plant scientists call Oenothera biennis.

The four petals of this bloom open by night and close by day, earning it the name evening primrose. While most are yellow, others come in shades of pink or cream. Native to the eastern half of North America, evening primrose often produces a refreshing lemony scent, and its stem is covered in fine hairs.

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This plant gets its name from the Latin term for "wax taper" because it resembles a tall candle. Can you guess its common name?

Night-blooming cereus refers to any member of a genus of stiff, upright, tubular cacti. These plants can grow in excess of 40 feet tall and produce white or cream flowers that bloom by night and wilt by day.

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Believe it or not, this flower used to make leis is not native to Hawaii. Do you know what it's called?

Visitors to the Hawaiian islands are traditionally greeted with flowered necklaces made from fragrant, colorful flowers known as plumeria. Pollinated by moths, these flowers bloom at night, revealing blossoms in gorgeous shades like pink, yellow, purple and cream.

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Scientists know this species as Chaenomeles, but can you identify this flower that looks like a mix of a rose and a camellia?

This five-petaled night-bloomer is the common quince, which grows in white, pink or peach colored bunches on evergreen shrubs or small trees. These plants also produce a fruit that's very similar to the apple and can be found primarily in Asia and Australia.

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If you're lucky enough to catch this plant in full bloom, you'll probably smell it before you see it. Think you know its name?

Amorphophallus titanum has been dubbed the corpse flower because when it blooms it releases a scent reminiscent of a dead body. The good news is that this Sumatra native generally only blooms for a day or two, and it takes at least 7 to 10 years of growing time before it showcases its maroon or burgundy bloom.

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Choose the correct name for this plant, which produces leaves that are as beautiful as its flowers.

Sure, the night-blooming hibiscus produces some enticing red blossoms, but that's not all that this tropical plant has to offer. Its jagged-edged leaves are a rare purple-red hue, which contrasts well with the standard green found on most garden species.

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The Zephyranthes genus includes around 70 species of flowers that bloom by night and last for only a few days. Guess their common name.

So-named because a good spring or summer rain often brings out their blooms, rain lilies are popular ornamental plants in mild and temperate parts of the world. Also known as rainflowers, these plants feature funnel-shaped blossoms in shades like white, pink and yellow.

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It's not just the flowers that are fragrant on this species ... the leaves themselves have a pungent scent. Can you name this plant?

Known to scientists as Murraya koenigii, the curry leaf tree is an Indian native that grows between 12 and 20 feet tall on average. It produces large numbers of small white blooms, but it's the leaves of this plant that are used all over the world to add bold flavor to food.

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Which of these is another name for the plant shown here, which is sometimes called summer lilac or sweet rocket?

A member of the mustard family, night-scented gilliflower has a sweet scent that gets much stronger as the sun sets. It grows up to 3 feet tall and produces many small colorful flowers along with long leaves that can be used in salad mixes.

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The tree that produces these flowers also creates a fruit that sometimes smells like raw sewage. Think you can name it?

Native to Borneo and Sumatra, the Durio family includes 30 species of trees that can grow 150 feet tall or more. The flowers on these trees bloom at night to welcome bat pollinators and have a smell that's more sour than sweet. Durian fruit, which some consider a delicacy, has a smell that's nothing like apples or oranges and is so potent that the fruit has been banned in some areas.

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Syringa vulgaris is known for its huge blueish-purple panicles, but can you remember the common name of this fragrant plant?

The common lilac grows on shrubs ranging from 4 to 15 feet high. In addition to its sweet-smelling panicles of tiny flowers, this plant features heart-shaped leaves in deep shades of green.

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Choose the correct name for this night bloomer, which is also known as the dragon fruit flower and has a fruity scent to match.

The subtropical pitaya is part of the cactus family and produces a spiky red fruit known as the dragon fruit. This climbing plant blooms just once, producing a flower with long white or yellow petals as day turns to night. Once the flower has wilted, the pitaya plant releases its sweet red fruit, which is filled with small black seeds like those found in a kiwi.

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Native to the Caribbean and Central America, what is this flower that scientists call Epidendrum nocturnum?

The deep green leaves of the night-scented orchid have a leathery texture, but its long, narrow flower petals are much more delicate. These greenish-yellow blossoms unfurl at night, producing an intoxicating smell that pollinators can't resist.

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Named for the Hindu god of creation, what is this flower that blooms high in the Himalayas?

Saussurea obvallata plays an important role in the Hindu culture and is commonly known as Brahma kamal in honor of the Hindu god of creation. It blooms high in the mountains of the Himalayas during late summer, with yellow-green paper-like wrappings opening to reveal the large white flower hiding inside.

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Mentzelia laevicaulis is native to western North America, but do you know what this whiskery yellow flower is commonly called?

The U.S. Forest Service calls the blazing star "nature's Velcro" because of the way the long yellow petals and stamen of this bloom tend to get tangled in everything they touch. The plant itself looks like a weed, but it only takes one look at its bright yellow flowers to understand where it got its name.

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Despite its name, this plant from the asparagus family is a nighttime bloomer. Know the name of the flower shown here?

The daylily is so-named not because it blooms during the day, but because it tends to burst into bloom for just a single day before wilting and dying. It makes the ideal garden plant because of its ruffled petals and endless varieties, which can range from pink to peach, gold, lavender and even bi-color cultivars.

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Pick the correct name for this plant that scientists call Zaluzianskya capensis, but which is more commonly known as midnight candy.

Night phlox has earned the nickname midnight candy because it blooms at night to show off starry white flowers and release a sweet honey-vanilla scent. Native to South Africa, this hearty species is now prized by gardeners all over the world, who use it to add color and fragrance to moon gardens.

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