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Plants: Gardens: Epiphyllum House

Epiphyllums go largely unnoticed during much of the year, their unassuming, leaf-like stems 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 along with a host plant without harming it, as opposed to parasitic plants that invade their hosts.


The Safari Park's Epiphyllum House is a beautiful tribute to these surprising plants, created and maintained by dedicated volunteers of the San Diego Epiphyllum Society. It displays almost 600 plants, and with names like 'Sparkling Burgundy,' 'Candy Barr,' 'Ice Follies,' 'Obsidian Queen,' and 'Greek god,' how can you resist? If your visit to the Park coincides with springtime, make sure to discover the tropical treasures of the Epiphyllum House. And by the way, if you'd like to join in the fun at home, look for epiphyllum cuttings for sale at the Park.

Note: The Epiphyllum House is closed during the fall/winter season.