Hylocereus undatus

Hylocereus undatus (Red Pitaya) is a species of Cactaceae and is the most cultivated species in the genus. It is used both as an ornamental vine and as a fruit crop - the Pitaya or Dragonfruit. The native origin of the species has never been resolved.

Common Names

  • English: Red Pitaya, Red Pitahaya, Night blooming Cereus, Strawberry Pear, Dragonfruit, Belle of the Night, Conderella Plant
  • French: cierge-lézard, poire de chardon
  • German: Distelbirne,Drachenfrucht
  • Hawaiian: panini-o-ka-puna-hou ("Punahou cactus") - a famous specimen still grows at Punahou School
  • Portuguese: cato-barse, cardo-ananaz
  • Spanish: pitahaya roja (Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela); flor de caliz, pitajava (Puerto Rico); junco, junco tapatio, pitahaya orejona, reina de la noche, tasajo (Mexico)
  • Swedish: skogskaktus, röd pitahaya
  • Vietnamese: thanh long


Named for its undulate or wavy margins of the ribs.


There is a locally famous cacti hedge on a lava rock wall of the Punahou School in Honolulu, the hedge of Kapunahou.

In 1836 Mrs. Bingham planted the hedge of Hylocereus undatus, the famed cacti known in Hawaii as panini o kapunahou. Its exotic blossoms still bloom during the closing summer months on the Punahou walls. The hedge is on two sides of the school and about three hundred meters (football fields) long.

From July to as late as October the hedge blooms and several times there is a wall of white flowers hundreds of yards long. Supposedly all the H. undatus in Hawaii came from the wall of Punahou School. People used to come in the evenings from all over the island to see them blooming and "borrow" some cuttings so that now they have this species all over the islands.

Origin and habitat

lithophytic or hemiepiphytic. Widely distributed through the tropics in cultivation, its native habitat uncertain.


This species is closely related to H. ocamponis and H. escuintlensis.


An easily cultivated, fast growing epiphyte or xerophyte. Needs a compost containing plenty of humus and sufficient moisture in summer. Should not be kept under 10ºC (50ºF) in winter. Can be grown in semi-shade or full sun. Extra light in the early spring will stimulate budding. Flowers in summer or autumn.


Stems scandent, creeping, sprawling or clambering, branching profusely, 4-7,5 (-10) m long or more, joints to 30-120 cm long or more, 10-12 cm thick; ribs generally 3; margins corneous in age, undulate; areoles 2 mm in diameter; internodes 1-4 cm; spines on adult branches 1-3, 2-4 mm long, acicular to subconic, grayish brown to black, spreading; epidermis deep green. Flowers 25-30 cm long, 15-17 cm wide, nocturnal, scented; pericarpel 2,5-5 cm long, ca 2,5 cm thick, bracteoles ovate, acute, to 2,5 (-4 ) cm long; receptacle ca 3 cm thick, bracteoles linear-lanceolate, 3-8 cm long; outer tepals lanceolate-linear to linear, acuminate, 10-15 cm long, 10-15 mm wide mucronate, greenish yellow or whitish, rarely tinged rose; inner tepals lanceolate to oblanceolate, to 10-15 cm long ca 40 mm wide at widest point, mucronate, entire, acute to acuminate, white; stamens 5-10 cm long, declinate, inserted in one continuous zone from throat to 35 mm above pericarpel, cream; style to 17,5-24.5 cm long, stout, 6-8 mm thick, cream, stigma lobes to 26, entire or sometimes cleft at apex, cream, ca 25 mm long. Nectar chaimbers 30 mm long. Fruit oblong to ovoid, to 6-12 cm long, 4-9 cm thick, red with large bracteoles, pulp white, edible; seeds black.


Dragonfruit cost about £1-2 each in the UK. In Taiwan they are about 45 NT each (2008).


  • Anderson, E. F. 2001. The cactus family. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, USA.

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