From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by Geoff Parker
New Pitaya Fruit
Scientific name: Hylocereus oncampensis, Cereus triangularis
those wanting something different in their fruit orchard, these little
known members of the Cactaceae family might be what you're looking for.
They require an old tree stump or a trellis as the pitaya has a
self-supporting climbing habit. It is a vigorous growing plant capable
of obtaining nourishment from wherever the active aerial root system
adheres itself. The fleshy deep green stems will branch anywhere along
the main stem, these branches or joints of all sizes often reaching 5
metres. The stems are triangular, 2 - 10 cm in diameter, more or less
wavy with the rounded edges having short ash-coloured spines.
The two species imported to North Queensland from Colombia are: Hylocereus oncampensis, Red pitaya and Cereus triangularis,
yellow pitaya. Pitaya fruits are globose to oval, 5 - 15 cm long, with
spongy pulp containing numerous small black seeds. The yellow pitaya is
the smaller of the two fruit, and is distinct in that it is covered
with many small clusters of spines, which are easily brushed off the
fully ripe fruit. The red pitaya has no spines, but instead large leaf
like scales on its surface. Both pitayas have a delicious juicy sweet
flesh which separates easily from the skin. Red pitaya has a staining
red-to-purple flesh, and yellow pitaya has a translucent white flesh.
The fragrant red pulp of H. oncampensis is not appealing to all, whilst C. triangularis has a flavour readily acceptable to European tastes.
produce large showy nocturnal flowers 25 - 30 cm long. These
strongly-scented trumpet-like flowers are freely produced in late
summer with some flowering occurring throughout the year. These fruit
mature in 4 - 8 weeks from anthesis.
Pitayas are naturally
hardy, growing in arid or fertile areas, the latter producing a larger
fruit and crop size. They are easily propagated by stem cuttings or
seeds, both of which take about 2 - 4 years to produce fruit.
Many varieties of pitayas exist, one of which has the size and shape of H. oncampensis and the appealing translucent white flesh of C. triangularis,
which raises the need for selecting and cloning the best varieties.
Pitayas are not tropical climate requiring, and do well in sub-tropical
and temperate climates to 0°C without any major damage. No yield
figures have been documented for pitaya, however, existing North
Queensland plantings have produced 20 Kg of fruit in a season, on young
The fruit would be a good market-place attraction having
good ornamental qualities and a delicious juicy flavour. They are in
season when most tropical fruits are finished, and store well under
refrigeration. A lot of research is yet to be done on Pitaya, however
initial response is promising for commercial prospects.