Selenicereus costaricensis

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Red-fleshed pitahaya
Hylocereus costaricensis7EDWARD.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Genus: Selenicereus
S. costaricensis
Binomial name
Selenicereus costaricensis
(F.A.C.Weber) S.Arias & N.Korotkova

For the issues with the validity of these names, see § Taxonomy.

  • Cereus trigonus var. costaricensis F.A.C.Weber
  • Cereus costaricensis A.Berger
  • Hylocereus costaricensis (F.A.C.Weber) Britton & Rose

Selenicereus costaricensis, synonym Hylocereus costaricensis, known as the Costa Rican pitahaya or Costa Rica nightblooming cactus, is a cactus species native to Central America and north-eastern South America.[1] The species is grown commercially for its fruit, called pitaya or pitahaya, but is also an impressive ornamental vine with huge flowers. The species may not be distinct from Selenicereus monacanthus.


  • Stem scandent, 1-3 (-10) cm wide, usually very thick; ribs 3 (-4), margins straight to shallowly scallop-lobed; internodes 2-3.5 x 0.1-0.2 cm; often folded, areoles on prominences, bearing dense, short wool and (1-) 3-6 (-9) short, dark spines 2–4 mm, hairs 2, often bristle-like, soon dropping; epidermis grayish green, +- glaucous in fresh material.
  • Flowers funnel-shaped, 22–30 cm long, strongly perfumed, young buds globular; cylindric-ovoid, ca 4 cm long, bracteoles narrow, foliaceous, numerous, imbricate, 1–2 cm long; receptacle stout, 10–15 cm, throat obconic, 6 cm in wide at the orifice, bracteoles foliaceous, persistent, particularly imbricating towards the base, green with purple margins; tepals 11–15 cm, the outer greenish yellow, the inner white; stigma lobes ca. 12, not forked; ovary covered with large, broadly to narrowly triangular, overlapping bracteoles, 0.5–3 cm.
  • Fruit broadly ovate to globose, bright magenta, pupla purple; seeds pear-shaped, black, ca 10mm.
A pitahaya fruit cut in half


Both the identity and the nomenclature of the species have been problematic. The name Cereus trigonus var. costaricensis was first published by Frédéric Weber in 1902.[2] The epithet costaricensis refers to Costa Rica,[3] where it is native. The plant Weber described had a triangular stem like Cereus trigonus, but was "distinguished by its more glaucous stem and especially by its fruit, just as big but more spherical, less scaly, and filled with a crimson pulp of a very delicate taste."[4] It was said to be highly sought after in Costa Rica for its fruit, known as pitahaya.[5] Weber mentioned a photograph of the plant, but as of 2017 this had not been located, so the name lacked a type.[6] In 1909, Britton and Rose transferred the plant to the genus Hylocereus and raised it to a full species as Hylocereus costaricensis.[7]

A molecular phylogenetic study in 2017 confirmed earlier research showing that the genus Hylocereus was nested within Selenicereus, so all the species of Hylocereus were transferred to Selenicereus, with this species becoming Selenicereus costaricensis.[8] However, in the absence of a type, the names remained problematic. In 2021, a lectotype was designated,[9] and the name was accepted by the International Plant Names Index[10] and Plants of the World Online.[11]

The species has been described as "poorly understood".[12] The name Hylocereus costaricensis has been treated as synonymous with Hylocereus polyrhizus;[13][14] however, H. polyrhizus is regarded by other sources as a synonym of Selenicereus monacanthus. The relationship between S. costaricensis and S. monacanthus, and in particular whether they are separate species, requires further study.[8]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The species is native from Nicaragua to northern Peru,[11] although its natural range is hard to determine because it has been cultivated so widely. It occurs in dry or deciduous coastal forests, at elevations of 0–1,400 m (0–4,600 ft) above sea level.[1]


An easily cultivated, fast growing epiphyte or xerophyte. Needs a compost containing plenty of humus and sufficient moisture in summer. It should not be kept under 10 °C (50 °F) 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Hammel, B. (2013). "Hylocereus costaricensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T151841A567360. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T151841A567360.en.
  2. ^ "Cereus trigonus var. costaricensis F.A.C.Weber". International Plant Names Index (IPNI). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries; Australian National Botanic Gardens. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  3. ^ Hyam, R. & Pankhurst, R.J. (1995). Plants and their names : a concise dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 130. ISBN 978-0-19-866189-4.
  4. ^ Weber (1902), p. 457. "s'en distingue par sa tige plus glauque et surtout par son fruit, tout aussi grand mais plus spérique, moins squameux, et rempli d'une pulpe cramoisie d'un goût très délicat".
  5. ^ Weber, A. (1902). "Les Cactées de Costarica". Bulletin du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle. 8 (6): 454–469. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  6. ^ Korotkova, Borsch & Arias (2017), p. 25.
  7. ^ "Hylocereus costaricensis Britton & Rose". International Plant Names Index (IPNI). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries; Australian National Botanic Gardens. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  8. ^ a b Korotkova, Nadja; Borsch, Thomas & Arias, Salvador (2017). "A phylogenetic framework for the Hylocereeae (Cactaceae) and implications for the circumscription of the genera". Phytotaxa. 327 (1): 1–46. doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.327.1.1.
  9. ^ Korotkova, Nadja; Aquino, David; Arias, Salvador; Eggli, Urs; Franck, Alan; Gómez-Hinostrosa, Carlos; Guerrero, Pablo C.; Hernández, Héctor M.; Kohlbecker, Andreas; Köhler, Matias; Luther, Katja; Majure, Lucas C.; Müller, Andreas; Metzing, Detlev; Nyffeler, Reto; Sánchez, Daniel; Schlumpberger, Boris & Berendsohn, Walter G. (2021). "Cactaceae at – a dynamic online species-level taxonomic backbone for the family". Willdenowia. 51 (2): 251–270. doi:10.3372/wi.51.51208. S2CID 237402311.
  10. ^ "Selenicereus costaricensis (F.A.C.Weber) S.Arias & N.Korotkova". International Plant Names Index (IPNI). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries; Australian National Botanic Gardens. Retrieved 2022-06-14.
  11. ^ a b "Selenicereus costaricensis (F.A.C.Weber) S.Arias & N.Korotkova ex Hammel". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2022-06-14.
  12. ^ Anderson, Edward F. (2001). "Hylocereus costaricensis". The Cactus Family. Pentland, Oregon: Timber Press. p. 377. ISBN 978-0-88192-498-5.
  13. ^ Temak, Yogita; Cholke, Pravin; Mule, Akshay; Shingade, Akahay; Narote, Sudam; Kagde, Aditee; Lagad, Rutuja & Sake, Vaishnavi (2018). "In vivo and In vitro Evaluation of Antimicrobial Activity of Peel Extracts of Red Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus)" (PDF). International Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 3 (5): 24–26. Retrieved 2021-03-05.[dead link]
  14. ^ Paśko, Paweł; Galanty, Agnieszka; Zagrodzki, Paweł; Ku, Yang Gyu; Luksirikul, Patraporn; Weisz, Moshe & Gorinstein, Shela (2021). "Bioactivity and cytotoxicity of different species of pitaya fruits–A comparative study with advanced chemometric analysis". Food Bioscience. 40: 100888. doi:10.1016/j.fbio.2021.100888. S2CID 233528900.

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