LYDIA — Thirteen night-blooming cacti flourish in Lydia, despite the humid Louisiana weather.
For 82-year-old Lester Provost, the plants are the pride of his yard. The tallest plant he is able to measure is 13 feet, 10 inches. Along with the red roof on his house, the tall plants provide an unusual entrance to Provost’s home.
He started 10 years ago, with a single 2-foot tall plant and no idea how big it would get.
“I’ve never seen them get that tall,” Provost said.
His cacti dwarf him, growing tall and spindly and encroaching on the trees behind them.
Provost got his start from a woman in Maurice, who had a cactus plant with “two fat arms.”
“Man, I loved it,” he recalled.
Provost’s plants are tall but thin. They are Cereus peruvianus, a night-blooming cactus, said botanical scientist Glenn Stokes, president of Mosquito Control Contractors.
“It’s a true cactus,” Stokes said. “I don’t know of any like that in Iberia Parish. It’s unusual to that extent.”
The blooms are pollinated by bats or night-flying moths, Stokes said.
Provost said the flowers close when the sun comes up but he has seen them in full bloom, pink with shades of purple. One plant had at least 60 flowers, he said.
He planted them for decoration, he said. People stop by to ask for starters to grow their own plants. The last woman who stopped was from Texas.
Some people drive by his house slowly to admire the tall plants that usually grow in the desert.
The plants have “little bitty pricks,” Provost said, and he can clean around them because they are tall and thin and the pricks are not too bad.
Provost also has two fat palm trees in the bed in front of his house. He planted the cacti and the palm trees for decoration, he said.
He likes them because they are unique.
“I’m the only one that has the cactus and the palm trees, and that’s the way I like it,” he said. “They’re very unusual here.”
Once, a guy offered him $15,000 for his palm trees — $7,500 a tree.
“No way was I going to sell them. It took me too long to grow them,” he said.
Aside from the cactus plants and the palm trees, he has muscadine plants, 19 fig trees, persimmon trees, cumquat trees, lemon trees, pear trees and blueberry bushes. He gives away the fruit.
Provost said the cactus plants produce purple fruit. He tasted one, “but I forgot what they taste like,” he said.
Cereus peruvianus unusually require more water than other cactus plants but should have well-draining soil, according to a gardening website.
Provost’s plants are on a slope above a drainage ditch, but he doesn’t believe that helped the plants grow.
“The ones by the palm trees I planted just two years ago, and they’re going to get as tall as the others,” he said. “I don’t think the ditch has anything to do with it.”
Provost never waters or fertilizes them. Stokes said that is the reason people love cactus.
“Cactus requires such little care and watering,” he said. “And the night-blooming Cereus is kind of a collector’s plant. The flower only blooms once in that spot on the plant and then it falls off.”