|Pitaya, Dragon Fruit - Hylocereus undatus and other species and hybrids|
Pitaya Cross Section
Dragon fruit stem
Pitaya stem with two flower buds forming
Hylocereus undatus grown in the Botanical Garden “Jardin de Cactus” in Guatiza, Teguise, Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Hylocereus undatus flower
Carpenter bee covered in pollen from the flower
Multiple flowers, one closed
Pitaya in full bloom
Fruiting plant, climbing into a palm tree
Hylocereus undatus cultivated, fruiting
H. undatus fruit
H. megalanthus, yellow pitaya
Hylocereus undatus (white, pink and red) and H. megalanthus (yellow)
Pitaya (green dragon) fruits being grown commercially in southern Vietnam
Pitaya (dragon fruit) trees at the Agricultural Science and Technology School Muñoz, Nueva Ecija
H. undatus (Night-blooming cereus, paniniokapunahoa, papipi pua, dragon fruit, red pitaya). Habit. Keokea, Maui, Hawaii
Pitaya. Ciutat Vella, Barcelona, Catalonia
Dragon fruit Dubai market
H. megalanthus in Dubai Market
Dragon fruit being prepared for Talad Thai wholesale market in Bangkok
Dress for a folk dance called Flor de Pitahaya "Pitahaya Flower" from Baja California Sur displayed at the Popular Art Museum in Mexico City
Hylocereus undatus (Haw.) Britton & Rose
English: belle of the night, night-blooming cereus; pitahaya, queen of the night, red pitahaya, strawberry pear, dragon fruit; Spanish: pitahaya, tuna, nopal, pitajaya, pitahaya blanca, pitahaya dulce, pitahaya roja; French: fruit du dragon, pitahaya rouge, pitaya 8
The Spanish terms pitaya, pitajaya, pitahaya, are applied to the strawberry pear in Latin America, in common with the edible fruits of several other species of cacti; but pitahaya roja and pitahaya blanca are applied specifically to H. undatus in Mexico; pitahaya de cardón in Guatemala 5
Cereus undatus Haw.; C. guatemalensis (Eichler) A. Berger [Illegitimate] (in review); C. tricostatus Rol.-Goss. (in review); C. trigonus var. guatemalensis Eichlam (in review); C. undatus Pfeiff. (in review); C. undulatus D. Dietr. (in review); Hylocereus guatemalensis (Eichlam) Britton & Rose (in review); H. tricostatus (Gosselin) Britton & Rose 6
H. ocamponis Britt. & Rose (syn. Cereus ocamponis Salm-Dyck), apple cactus is C. Peruvianus Mill.
Tropical America; southern Mexico, Pacific side of Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador; Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Curacao, Panama, Brazil and Uruguay 1
USDA hardiness zones
Tropical and sub tropical
20 ft (6.1 m)
Perennial, terrestrial, epiphytic, vine-like cacti 1
Stem segment has 3 flat, wavy wings, (ribs) with corneous margins; spines or spineless; aerial roots 1
Selectively remove some stems to enhance growth and vigor of remaining stems and to induce flowering 1
Nocturnal; very large, very fragrant, nocturnal, bell shaped; 14 in. long (36 cm) and 9 in. wide (23 cm)
Nonclimacteric; fleshy berry; oblong; 4.5 in. (11 cm); thick red or yellow peel with scales; with or without spines; pulp white, red or magenta; seeds very small, black 1
May to September 7
USDA Nutrient Content
They tolerate some shade and may be injured by extreme sunlight 1
Adapted to a wide range of soils provided they are well-drained 1
May withstand dry periods, they have a fairly high water requirement 1
Soil salt tolerance
May tolerate saline soil conditions 1
Appear to tolerate windy conditions 1
May be damaged at temperatures 31°F (-2°C) of long duration; recover rapidly from light freezing injury 1
6-10 ft (1.8-3 m)
Superficial root system; aerial roots grow from the underside of the stems, providing anchorage for the plants to climb on 3
Invasive potential *
Not considered a problem species at this time
Several important diseases attack pitayas: bacterium Xanthomonas compestris, which causes a severe stem rot, and Dothiorella sp. and anthracnose 1
The sap is caustic and hazardous 5; the plant has sharp spines 7
Pitaya Growing in the Florida Landscape pdf 8 pages
Pitaya Publication from the University of Hawaii CTAHR pdf
The Pitaya in Florida from the university of Florida Miami Dade County pdf 9 pages
2010 Year of the Dragon Fruit from California Rare Fruit Growers pdf
Strawberry Pear from Fruits of Warm Climates
Pitaya, Hylocereous undatus (Haw) - A Potential New Crop for Australia from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Tropical America; southern Mexico, Pacific side of Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador; Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Curacao, Panama, Brazil and Uruguay 1
Pitaya are fast growing, perennial, terrestrial, epiphytic, vine-like cacti.
They have triangular (3-sided, sometimes 4- or 5-sided), green, fleshy, jointed, many-branched stems. Each stem segment has 3 flat, wavy wings, (ribs) with corneous margins and may have 1-3 small spines or be spineless. The stem sections of pitaya form aerial roots (Fig. 6 ) which adhere to the surface upon which they grow or climb. The stem may reach about 20 ft (6.1 m) long. 1
Flowers are hermaphroditic, however, some pitaya species and cultivars are self incompatible. The extremely showy, edible, white (pink in other species) flowers are very large, very fragrant, nocturnal, bell shaped and may be 14 inches long (36 cm) and 9 inches wide (23 cm). The stamens and lobed stigmas are cream colored. 1
Three to five spherical buttons normally emerge on the stem margins; two to three of these may develop into flower buds in about 13 days. The light green, cylindrical flower buds reach approximately 11 inches after 16–17 days, when anthesis occurs. The flowers open rapidly, starting at around 6:40– 7:00 p.m., and flowering is completed by about 10:00 p.m. At 2:00 a.m., with pollination completed, the flower begins to wilt. The flower petals close completely by daybreak. 7
Fig. 13. Hylocereus undatus flower bud close-up, Tallinn Botanic Garden, Estonia
Fig. 14. H. undatus with both carpels and stamens
Fig. 15. H. undatus in bloom in Kona, Hawaii
Dragon Fruit Blooming Video ext. link
The fruit is a fleshy berry, which is oblong and about 4.5 inches (11 cm) thick with red or yellow peel with scales and with or without spines. The pulp may be white, pink, red, or magenta depending on the species. Seeds are very small, numerous, and black embedded within the pulp. 1
Fig. 21. Hylocereus undatus, white-fleshed
Fig. 22. H. undatus, red-fleshed
Fig. 23. H. megalanthus, Yellow pitahaya fruit with spines removed
Pitaya Fruit Cycle Video ext. link
There are no varieties in the proper sense, but there are many clones which can differ in the stem type, colour, fruit shape, skin thickness and scale expression. There are however two different species, H. undatus which has white flesh and H. polyrhizus which has red flesh.
Species and Varieties
Pine Island Nursery Dragon Fruit Viewer ext. link
In Florida, the pitaya typically fruits from May through september. An individual plant may bear more than 50 fruit per season. The fruit matures about 40 days after flowering and should not be harvested until it has achieved full coloration. 7
Self-incompatibility has been reported in several cultivars available from nurseries. To increase the potential for fruit production, plant 2 or 3 different genetic types (not the same clone or variety). Cross pollination between the different types in the planting will assure a better fruit set and size. Moths and bats are good pollinators, since flowers open at night when there is no bee activity. However, moth and bat pollination has not been commonly observed. Flowers of some cultivars remain open during the early to mid-morning hours and may be visited by bees. Alternately, hand pollination may be done during the night and early morning hours by collecting pollen (or whole stamens) from one flower and applying it to the stigma of other flowers. 1
Hand Pollination Video ext. link
The pitaya is most often propagated through cuttings, obtained by severing foot-long, lateral branches at a stem segment. 7
Making a slanted cut on the stem end to be inserted into the soil is said to improve rooting. Cuttings should be cured in a cool, dry area for 5–7 days before planting. Mature stems are preferred for cuttings, as they are more resistant to insect and snail damage. Cuttings may be planted directly in the field or in pots using a well drained potting medium. 7
Grow Dragon Fruit from Cuttings ext. link
There are two methods of planting; one is to plant a cured cutting directly into the soil.
A cured cutting is one in which the cut portion of the stem has been allowed to heal (dry) for several days in the shade.
The second and highly recommended system is to plant the cured cuttings in pots, let them develop a good root system for 4-6 months, and then plant them in the landscape. Planting may be done any time in south Florida if an adequate provision for watering is made, otherwise, the warm, rainy season is a good time to plant. 1
For the home landscape, consider a trellis for individual plants which should consists of a post and a structure at the top of the post to support the plant. A strong trellis should be established that may withstand several hundred pounds of stem weight. A weak trellis may buckle under the weight of a mature pitaya plant. Do not use wires on the trellis because they may cut or damage the stems. If wire is used, it should be covered by hoses. 1
The goal is to encourage a spray of hanging of dangling branches, as it is on such branches that fruit production occurs. 7
Fig. 24. Support made of 4x4 in. wood post and rebars covered with pvc tubing
Fig. 26. Dragon fruit structures in containers
Fig. 27. Dragon fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden
Pruning is required to maintain the shape and size of the plants as they can quickly become unruly and top heavy. Pruning also enables access to the plant which assists harvesting. Care should be taken to dispose of the cuttings as they have the potential to become weeds. 2
Pruning Pitaya (Dragon Fruit) from the Sub-Tropical Fruit Club of Qld Inc.
It is important to water your pitaya through the flowering and fruiting season at least once a week.
Severe stem damage has been reported from sunburn in some growing regions with low humidity or high altitude. About 30% shading is recommended during the first 3 to 4 months after planting and where insolation is at damaging levels. However, too much shade results in low production and poor quality fruit. 1
Some damage by mites, thrips, ants, scales and mealybugs, beetles, borers (Diatrea), slugs and fruit flies has been reported. Raccoons, possums, rats and birds may also cause damage to fruit and plants. Please contact your local County Cooperative Extension Agent for current control measures. 1
Several important diseases attack pitayas. These include the bacterium Xanthomonas compestris, which causes a severe stem rot, and Dothiorella sp. and anthracnose. Severe anthracnose damage to newly planted pitaya has been observed in Florida, and anthracnose also attacks the fruits. Fusarium oxysporum has also attacked plants. Please contact your local County Cooperative Extension Agent for current control measures. 1
The ripe strawberry pear is much appreciated, especially if chilled and cut in half so that the flesh can be eaten with a spoon. The juice is enjoyed as a cool drink. A sirup made of the whole fruit is used to color pastries and candy. The unopened flowerbud can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. 5
Fig. 31. Chilled white flesh pitaya
Fig. 32. Dried pitaya
Fig. 33. H. monacanthus on the left and H. undatus on the right
Peeling Video ext. link
Medicinal Uses **
The sap of the stems of H. undatus has been utilized as a vermifuge but it is said to be caustic and hazardous. The air-dried, powdered stems contain B-sitosterol. 5
Freshly cut stems and flowers of Selenicereus grandiflorus, in particular, are used in the preparation of drugs with a spasmolytic effect on the coronary vessels, and to promote blood circulation. For this purpose, cuttings are cultivated in hot-houses. S. megalanthus contains the heart tonic captine. The H. undatus fruit is noted to be useful in combating anaemia. Stems of the species are sold in homeopathy. 9
The yellow pitaya (H. megalanthus) is a smaller fruit, and is covered with many small clusters of spines, which are easily brushed off the fully ripe fruit. It is commercially grown in Colombia, has white pulp with higher sugar levels.
Dragon Fruit: Postharvest Quality-Maintenance Guidelines from the University of Hawaii pdf
New Pitaya Fruit from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Dragon Fruit Tips from the Sub-Tropical Fruit Club of Qld Inc.
The Red Pitaya, A New Exotic Fruit from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Dragon Fruit Production Using Light Supplementation from the Sub-tropical Fruit Club of Qld Inc.
Pitaya Botanical Art
List of Growers and Vendors
1 Crane, Johathan H., Balerdi, Carlos F. and Maquire, Ian. "Pitaya Growing in the Home Landscape." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is HS1068, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date Nov. 2005. Revised Nov. 2016. Web. 17 June 2017.
2 McMahon, Gerry. "Pruning Pitaya (Dragon Fruit)." stfc.org.au. Sub-Tropical Fuit Club of Wld Inc. STFC Newsletter June,July 2006. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
3 Zee, Francis, Chung-Ruey Yen, and Melvin Nishina. "Pitaya (Dragon Fruit, Strawberry Pear)." ctahr.hawaii.edu. Published by the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR. Fruit and Nuts. 2004. Accessed 17 June 2017.
4 Crane, Jonathan and Carlos Balerdi. The pitaya (Hylocereus undatus and other spp.) in Florida. miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu. Accessed 17 June 2017.
5 Morton, J. "Strawberry Pear, Hylocereus undatus Britt. & Rose." hort.purdue.edu. Fruits of Warm Climates, p. 347–348. 1987. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.
6 "Hylocereus undatus (Haw.) Britton & Rose synonyms." The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; www.theplantlist.org/. Accessed 18 June 2017.
7 Boning, Charles R. Florida's Best Fruiting Plants- Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Pineapple Press, Inc. Sarasota, Florida. 2006, pp 184-185.
8 Hylocereus undatus. cabi.org. Accessed 19 June 2017.
9 Jacobs, Dimitry. "Pitaya, Hylocereous undatus (Haw) - A Potential New Crop for Australia." rfcarchives.org.au. Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. Department of Agronomy, Wageningen Agricultural University, Wageningen, The Netherlands, Feb. 1998. Web. 19 June 2017.
Fig. 1 Jamain. Pitaya, picture taken in Belgium. 2012. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 2 SMasters. Cross section of a ripe white pitahaya. 2010. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 3 Bowland, Grahame. Pitaya Seedling. 2011. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 4,7,8,11,12,24,25 Robitaille, Liette. "Dragon Fuit Series." growables.org. JPG file. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 5 Acevedo-Rodriguez, P. Hylocereus undatus (Cactaceae). N.d. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany. collections.nmnh.si.edu. Web. 10 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 6 Vincentz, Frank. Hylocereus undatus grown in the Botanical Garden “Jardin de Cactus” in Guatiza, Teguise, Lanzarote, Canary Islands. 2011. wikipedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 9 Eliasson, Ulf. Hylocereus undatus. 2003. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY 2.5). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 10 Inaglory, Brocken. Carpenter bee covered in pollen from the flower. N.d. tropical.theferns.info. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 13 Delso, Diego. Hylocereus undatus, Tallinn Botanic Garden, Estonia. 2012. wikipedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 14 Inaglory, Brocken. Hylocereus undatus with both carpels and stamens. 2008. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 15 Inaglory, Brocken. Hylocereus undatus in bloom in Kona, Hawaii. 2008. wikipedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 16 Tominiko974. Fruiting plant, climbing into a palm tree. N.d. tropical.theferns.info. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 17 Prenn. Hylocereus undatus cultivated, fruiting. 2009. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 21 June 2017.
Fig. 18 Sample, Jane. Dragon fruit. 2015. flickr.com. Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 19 Editorenbici. Fotografía de una pitahaya. 1969. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 21 June 2017.
Fig. 20 Roei, tabak. Pitaya fruit in various colors. 2016. wikipedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 4.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 21 Voekler, T. Dragon fruit. 2008. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 22 Genet (Diskussion). Hylocereus undatus fruit (it is H. megalanthus). 2013. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 23 Fibonacci. Hylocereus megalanthus, yellow pitahaya fruit with spines removed. 2006. wikipedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 26 Kwan. Hylocereus undatus. 2008-2009. natureloveyou.sg. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 27 Jackson, Karen. "Dragon Fruit Series." 2013. Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden. growables.org. JPG file.
Fig. 28 Nhã Lê Hoàn. Pitaya (green dragon) fruits being grown commercially in southern Vietnam. 2003. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 29 Velasquez, Ramon F. Pitaya (dragon fruit) trees at the Agricultural Science and Technology School Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. 2012. wikipedia.org. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.
Fig. 30 Starr, Forest and Kim. Hylocereus undatus (Night-blooming cereus, paniniokapunahoa, papipi pua, dragon fruit, red pitaya). Habit. Keokea, Maui, Hawaii. 2007. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY-SA 4.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 31,32,33,34 Dragon fruit. N.d. pixabay.com. Public domain. Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 35 Ledgard, Bryan. Pitaya. Ciutat Vella, Barcelona, Catalonia. 2007. flickr.com. Under (CC BY2.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 36,37 Jackson, Karen. "Dragon Fruit Series." 2013. growables.org. Dubai market. JPG file.
Fig. 38 Kahane, Remi. Dragon fruit being prepared for Talad Thai wholesale market in Bangkok. 2009. GlobalHort Image Librairy. flickr.com. Under (CC BY2.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
Fig. 39 AlejandroLinaresGarcia. Dress for a folk dance called Flor de Pitahaya "Pitahaya Flower" from Baja California Sur displayed at the Popular Art Museum in Mexico City. 2015. wikipedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 4.0). Web. 20 June 2017.
* UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas
** Information provided is not intended to be used as a guide for treatment of medical conditions.
Published 8 Aug. 2014 LR. Last update 21 June 2017 LR