From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Dragon fruit)
Jump to: navigation, search
Not to be confused with Pattaya.
Cross section of a ripe white pitahaya
Hylocereus undatus pitahayas at a market stall in Taiwan, between bananas and sugar apples

A pitaya /pˈt.ə/ or pitahaya /ˌpɪtəˈh.ə/ is the fruit of several cactus species indigenous to the Americas.[1] "Pitaya" usually refers to fruit of the genus Stenocereus, while "pitahaya" or "dragon fruit" refers to fruit of the genus Hylocereus.

Vernacular names of Hylocereus[edit]

These fruits are commonly known in English as "dragon fruit", reflecting its vernacular Asian names. These include the Indonesian buah naga (lit. dragon fruit), the Khmer sror kaa neak (dragon scale), the Thai kaeo mangkon (dragon crystal), the Lao maak manggohn, the Vietnamese thanh long (green dragon), and the Chinese huǒ lóng guǒ (fire dragon fruit) or lóng zhū guǒ (dragon pearl fruit). Other vernacular names are "strawberry pear" or "nanettika fruit".

The name 'pitahaya' or 'pitaya' is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, derived from the Spanish rendition of the Haitian.[2]


Dress for a folk dance called Flor de Pitahaya (Pitahaya Flower) from Baja California Sur displayed at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City

Pitahaya-producing cacti of the genus Hylocereus are originally native to Mexico. They were transplanted to Central America, probably by Europeans.[1] They are cultivated in Southeast Asia, the United States, Israel, Australia, Cyprus and the Canary Islands.[citation needed]

A peeled fruit of the Stenocereus queretaroensis species

Pitaya varieties[edit]

Selling dragon fruit juice in Thailand


Stenocereus fruit (sour pitayas) are a variety that is commonly eaten in the arid regions of the Americas. They are more sour and refreshing, with juicier flesh and a stronger taste. The sour pitaya or pitaya agria (S. gummosus)[3] in the Sonoran Desert has been an important food source for Native Americans. The Seri people of northwestern Mexico still harvest the fruit,[4] and call the plant ziix is ccapxl – "thing whose fruit is sour". The fruit of related species, such as S. queretaroensis and the dagger cactus (S. griseus),[5] are also locally important foods. The organ pipe cactus (S. thurberi) fruit (called ool by the Seris) is the pitaya dulce ("sweet pitaya"). It still has a more tart aroma than Hylocereus fruit, described as somewhat reminiscent of watermelon; it has some uses in folk medicine.

Fruits of some other columnar cacti (mainly Cereeae) are also called "pitayas" – for example those of the Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus repandus), which are very rare.[citation needed]

Dragon fruit Hylocereus[edit]

Ripe dragon fruit, Vietnam

Sweet pitayas come in three types, all with leathery, slightly leafy skin:

  • Hylocereus undatus (Pitaya blanca or white-fleshed pitaya) has red-skinned fruit with white flesh. This is the most commonly seen "dragon fruit".
  • Hylocereus costaricensis (Pitaya roja or red-fleshed pitaya, also known as Hylocereus polyrhizus) has red-skinned fruit with red flesh.
  • Hylocereus megalanthus (Pitaya amarilla or yellow pitaya, also known as Selenicereus megalanthus) has yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh.

Early imports from Colombia to Australia were designated Hylocereus ocampensis (supposedly red fruit) and Cereus triangularis (supposedly yellow fruit). It is not quite certain to which species these taxa refer, though the latter is probably the red pitahaya.

The fruit normally weigh from 150 to 600 grams; some may reach one kilogram.


Pitahaya being grown commercially in southern Vietnam
Pitahaya seedling
Cereus peruvianus (Cereus repandus) Pitaya plants in Sde Nitzan (Israel)

After thorough cleaning of the seeds from the pulp of the fruit, the seeds may be stored when dried. Ideally, the fruit must be unblemished and overripe. Seeds grow well in a compost or potting soil mix – even as a potted indoor plant. Pitaya cacti usually germinate after between 11 and 14 days after shallow planting. As they are cacti, overwatering is a concern for home growers. As their growth continues, these climbing plants will find something to climb on, which can involve putting aerial roots down from the branches in addition to the basal roots. Once the plant reaches a mature 10 pounds in weight, the plant may flower.[clarification needed]

Pitaya flowers bloom overnight and usually wilt by the morning.[6] They rely on nocturnal pollinators such as bats or moths for fertilization. Self-fertilization will not produce fruit in some species, and while cross-breeding has resulted in several "self-fertile" varieties, cross-pollinating with a second plant species generally increases fruit set and quality. This limits the capability of home growers to produce the fruit. However, the plants can flower between three and six times in a year depending on growing conditions. Like other cacti, if a healthy piece of the stem is broken off, it may take root in soil and become its own plant.

The plants can endure temperatures up to 40 °C (104 °F) and very short periods of frost, but will not survive long exposure to freezing temperatures. The cacti thrive most in USDA zones 10-11, but may survive outdoors in zone 9a or 9b.[7][8][9]

Hylocereus has adapted to live in dry tropical climates with a moderate amount of rain. The dragon fruit sets on the cactus-like trees 30–50 days after flowering and can sometimes have 5-6 cycles of harvests per year. There are some farms in Vietnam that produce 30 tons of fruit per hectare every year.[10]

Pests and diseases[edit]

Overwatering or excessive rainfall can cause the flowers to drop and fruit to rot. Also, extended over-watering can cause maturing fruit to split on the branch. Birds can be a nuisance. The bacterium Xanthomonas campestris causes the stems to rot. Dothiorella fungi can cause brown spots on the fruit, but this is not common. Other fungi known to infect pitaya include Botryosphaeria dothidea, Colletotrichum gloesporioides and Bipolaris cactivora.[11]


The fruit's texture is sometimes likened to that of the kiwifruit because of its black, crunchy seeds. The flesh is mildly sweet and low in calories. The seeds have a nutty taste and are rich in lipids,.[12] The fruit is also converted into juice or wine, or used to flavour other beverages.[citation needed] The flowers can be eaten or steeped as tea.[citation needed]

Seed oils[edit]

The fatty acid compositions of two pitaya seed oils were determined as follows:[12]

Hylocereus costaricensis (Red-fleshed pitaya) Hylocereus undatus (White-fleshed pitaya)
Myristic acid 0.2% 0.3%
Palmitic acid 17.9% 17.1%
Stearic acid 5.49% 4.37%
Palmitoleic acid 0.91% 0.61%
Oleic acid 21.6% 23.8%
Cis-vaccenic acid 3.14% 2.81%
Linoleic acid 49.6% 50.1%
Linolenic acid 1.21% 0.98%


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Morton JF (1987). "Strawberry pear; In: Fruits of warm climates". Center for New Crops & Plant Products, Purdue University, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, West Lafayette, Indiana. pp. 347–8. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  2. ^ John Simpson, ed. (2009). The Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM Version 4.0: Windows/Mac Individual User Version (CD Rom Windows). OUP Oxford. ISBN 0-19-956383-7. 
  3. ^ Lauri (2000)
  4. ^ Felger & Moser (1985)
  5. ^ Villalobos et al. (2007)
  6. ^ Boning, Charles R. (2006). Florida’s Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. p. 185. ISBN 1-56164-372-6. 
  7. ^ "Dragon Fruit – Hylocereus undatus – Seeds – Seeds". Tradewindsfruit.com. Retrieved 2013-07-14. 
  8. ^ "Growing Dragon Fruit / Growing Pitaya Fruit | Dragon Fruit Pitahaya Fruit". Dragon.fruit.pitaya.fruit.foodlywise.com. 2007-09-25. Retrieved 2013-07-14. 
  9. ^ "Growing dragon fruit in containers, Pitaya festival 2005". Forestmulch.com. Retrieved 2013-07-14. 
  10. ^ Jacobs (1999)
  11. ^ Valencia-Botín, Alberto J.; Kokubu, Hirotaka; Ortíz-Hernández, Yolanda D. (2013). "A brief overview on pitahaya (Hylocereus spp.) diseases". Australasian Plant Pathology. 42 (4): 437–440. doi:10.1007/s13313-012-0193-8. 
  12. ^ a b Ariffin AA, Bakar J, Tan CP, Rahman RA, Karim R, Loi CC (2008). "Essential fatty acids of pitaya (dragon fruit) seed oil". Food Chemistry. 114 (2): 561–564. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.09.108. 


  • Agricultura Sensitiva (AS) [2008]: El cultivo de Pitaya y su posicionamiento en el mercado. Retrieved January 19, 2008.
  • Felger, Richard & Moser, Mary B. (1985): People of the desert and sea: ethnobotany of the Seri Indians. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
  • Jacobs, Dimitri (1999): Pitaya (Hylocereus undatus), a Potential New Crop for Australia. Australian New Crops Newsletter 11: 16.3. HTML fulltext
  • Lauri, Bob (2000): Ocean Oasis Field Guide – Stenocereus gummosus. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  • Malaysian Medical Resources (MMR) (2008): Pseudohaematuria due to Dragonfruit ingestion. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
  • Villalobos, Soraya; Vargas, Orlando & Melo, Sandra (2007): Uso, manejo y conservacion de "yosú", Stenocereus griseus (Cactaceae) en la Alta Guajira colombiana [Usage, Management and Conservation of yosú, Stenocereus griseus (Cactaceae), in the Upper Guajira, Colombia]. [Spanish with English abstract] Acta Biologica Colombiana 12(1): 99-112. PDF fulltext
  • Mizrahi, Y., A. Nerd, and Y. Sitrit. 2002. New fruits for arid climates. p. 378–384. In: J. Janick and A. Whipkey (eds.), Trends in new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA. [1]

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Pitaya at Wikimedia Commons