Hylocereus undatus, also known as the Nightblooming cactus, is a climbing cactus that is often found trailing over rocks or as an epiphyte hanging down from branches of other plants on which is has become established. The stems of most cacti are photosynthetic therefore they are green in color due to the presence of the plant pigment chlorophyll. In succulent cacti the stems may be angled rather than round in cross-section, which allows the stem to expand slightly as water is stored in the stem. The leaves of cacti, which are not photosynthetic, are reduced to small brownish-grey spines that are found in clusters of 1-3 on the ridges of the stem. The white to yellow flowers of this species are very large, reaching 25-30 cm in length and contain many long narrow petals that make this a very striking flower. The flowers are fragrant when they open in the early evening and stay open overnight often lasting until the middle of the next day before falling. The fruit of Nightblooming cactus are oblong in shape, reaching 5-12.5 cm in length and 3.8-9.0 cm wide. The fruit is fleshy at maturity, red with fleshy green scales, and contains many small, black seeds in a juicy white pulp. (Neal, M.C. 1965. In Gardens of Hawaiâ€˜i. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, HI.) (Staples, G. W. and D. R. Herbst. 2005. A Tropical Garden Flora: Plants cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands and other tropical places. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaiâ€™i.)
Nightblooming cactus is cultivated for fruit production in Australia, Cambodia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Spain, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the United States. Propogation of this species is easily achieved through the use of stem cuttings from 12-38 cm long. The stems are cut at the base and left to dry for 7-8 days before planting. Rooting hormone and fungicide may be applied to prevent stimulate root formation and prevent fungal infection. Plants grown from vegetative stock may fruit within 12 months after planting. While the plants can be grown from seed this can require up to 7 years before plants produce fruit. Agripinoy. Growing Pitaya or dragonfruit. 30 July 2007. Dragon Fruits. Accessed September 24, 2008. (http://www.gasing.com/dragonfruits/info.shtml)http://www.agripinoy.net/growing-pitaya-dragonfruit.html) Valiente-Banuet, A., R. Santos Gally, M.C. Arizmendi, and A. Casas. 2007. Pollination biology of the hemiepiphytic cactus Hylocereus undatus in the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico. Journal of Arid Environmnets 68(1): 1-8.)
Hylocereus undatus is native to tropical deciduous forests in Mexico, the West Indies, Central America, and northern Southern America and is now widely distributed in cultivation throughout the world. The origin of the species is difficult to trace but it is thought that Native Americans moved this species extensively throughout the Americas. It was first introduced to Hawaiâ€˜i in 1830, it is now widespread in cultivation, and naturalized populations have become established in leeward regions of Oâ€˜ahu and Kauaâ€˜i. (Valiente-Banuet, A., R. Santos Gally, M.C. Arizmendi, and A. Casas. 2007. Pollination biology of the hemiepiphytic cactus Hylocereus undatus in the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico. Journal of Arid Environmnets 68(1): 1-8.) (Staples, G. W. and D. R. Herbst. 2005. A Tropical Garden Flora: Plants cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands and other tropical places. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaiâ€™i.)
The fruit of many Hylocereus species, including H. undatus, is edible and is known by the common name pitaya or strawberry pear. The fruit has a very refreshing flavor and is slightly sweet. Hylocereaes undatus is a fruit that can be eaten out of hand. It can also be used to make wine, be put in smoothies, or make pastries. The taste is somewhat bland considering the elaborate skin the fruit has. To eat a dragonfruit out of hand, the easiest way is to slice the fruit in half, and simply scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Dragonfruit is a good source of calcium, fiber, and vitamin C that is low in calories. In south China the flowers are cooked and eaten in a soup that is made with ham.
Studies of the reproduction of Hylocereus undatus in Mexico identify that nectar-feeding bats including the Lesser Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) and the Mexican Long-tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana) visit flowers of this species during the night, and the honey bee (Apis mellifera) visits the flowers during the day. Studies indicate that plants that are visited by nighttime pollinators had a higher fruit production than those that are visited by daytime pollinators. This suggests that bats carry more pollen between flowers than bees therefore act as more efficient pollinators of this species. This species is self compatible however, meaning that even if no pollen is transferred between flowers as long as pollen from an individual flower fertilizes an ovule in the same flower fruit may still be produced. (Valiente-Banuet, A., R. Santos Gally, M.C. Arizmendi, and A. Casas. 2007. Pollination biology of the hemiepiphytic cactus Hylocereus undatus in the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico. Journal of Arid Environmnets 68(1): 1-8.) (Valiente-Banuet, A., M. del Coro Arizmendi, A. Rojas-Martinez, and L. Dominguez-Canseco. 1996.Ecological relationships between columnar cacti and nectar-feeding bats in Mexico. Journal of Tropical Ecology 12(10): 103-119
We currently have 5 herbarium specimens for Hylocereus undatus in our collection. Click on any specimen below to view the herbarium sheet data.