Selenicereus undatus

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Selenicereus undatus
Pitaya cross section ed2.jpg
Hylocereus undatus00.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Genus: Selenicereus
S. undatus
Binomial name
Selenicereus undatus
(Haworth) D.R.Hunt[1]
  • Cactus triangularis aphyllus Jacquin
  • Cereus triangularis major de Candolle
  • Cereus undatus Haworth
  • Cereus tricostatus Gosselin
  • Hylocereus tricostatus (Gosselin) Britton & Rose
  • Hylocereus undatus (Haworth) Britton & Rose

Selenicereus undatus, the white-fleshed pitahaya, 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 pitahaya or dragon fruit. The native origin of the species has never been resolved.[citation needed]


The red pitahaya at the Chiyai market, Taiwan
The flowers in Rome

Dragonfruit stems are scandent (climbing habit), creeping, sprawling or clambering, and branch profusely. There can be 4–7 of them, between 5 and 10 m or longer, with joints from 30–120 cm or longer, and 10–12 cm thick; with generally three ribs; margins are corneous (horn-like) with age, and undulate.

Areoles, that is, the small area bearing spines or hairs on a cactus, are 2 mm across with internodes 1–4 cm. Spines on the adult branches are 1–4 mm long, being acicular (needle-like) to almost conical, and grayish brown to black in colour and spreading, with a deep green epidermis.

The scented, nocturnal flowers are 25–30 cm long, 15–17 cm wide with the pericarpel 2.5–5 cm long, about 2.5 cm thick, bracteoles ovate, acute, to 2.5 to less than 4 cm long; receptacle about 3 cm thick, bracteoles are linear-lanceolate, 3–8 cm long; outer tepals lanceolate-linear to linear, acuminate (tapering to a point), being 10–15 cm long, 10–15 mm wide and mucronate (ending in a short sharp point). Their colour is greenish-yellow or whitish, rarely rose-tinged; inner tepals are lanceolate (tapering to a point at the tip) to oblanceolate (i.e. more pointed at the base), up to 10–15 cm long about 40 mm wide at widest point, and mucronate, unbroken, sharp to acuminate (pointed), and white. Stamens 5–10 cm long, are declinate, inserted in one continuous zone from throat to 35 mm above the pericarpel and cream. The style (bearing the stigma) to 17, they are 5–24.5 cm long, stout, 6–8 mm thick, cream, and up to 26 stigma lobes, they can be whole or sometimes split at the top, cream, about 25 mm long. Nectar chambers are 30 mm long.

The fruit is oblong to oval, 6–12 cm long, 4–9 cm thick, red with large bracteoles, with white pulp and edible black seeds.

Origin and habitat[edit]

Selenicereus undatus is lithophytic or hemiepiphytic. It is widely distributed through the tropics in cultivation. Like all true cacti, the genus originates in the Americas, but the precise origin of the species H. undatus is uncertain and it may be a hybrid. It is a sprawling or vining, terrestrial or epiphytic cactus. They climb by use of aerial roots and can reach a height of 10 meters (32.8 feet) or more growing on rocks and trees. The genus is very variable and closely related to Selenicereus.


This species is closely related to H. ocamponis and H. escuintlensis. Hylocereus undatus was described by (Haw.) Britton & Rose and published in Flora of Bermuda 256. 1918. In 2017, D. R. Hunt groups the genus Hylocereus within the genus Selenicereus. This has been supported by a phylogenetic analysis of the Hylocereeae tribe (Korotkova, et al., 2017), therefore this species is consigned under the name Selenicereus undatus[2]


Greek "hyle" – wood, matter, Latin "cereus" – waxen, Latin "undatus" – wavy edges of the ribs.

In bloom in Kona, Hawaii
Overlooking Lanikai and Na Mokulua


  • Hylocereus undatus (Haw.) Britton & Rose (1918:256)
  • Cactus triangularis ssp. aphyllus Jacquin (1763)
  • Cereus triangularis ssp. major Candolle (1828)
  • Cereus undatus Haworth (1830)
  • Cereus tricostatus Gosselin (1907)
  • Hylocereus tricostatus (Gosselin) Britton & Rose (1909)

Common names[edit]

  • Dansk: Dragefrugt
  • English: pitahaya, dragon fruit, night blooming cereus, strawberry pear, Belle of the Night, Cinderella plant, Jesus in the cradle, moonflower[3]
  • Estonian: maasik-metskaktus
  • Finnish: pitaija, lohikäärmehedelmä
  • French: pitaya, fruit du dragon, cierge-lézard, poire de chardon
  • German: Drachenfrucht, Distelbirne
  • Greek: Φρούτο του δράκου (fruto tu draku)
  • Hawaiian: panini-o-ka-puna-hou ("Punahou cactus") – a famous specimen still grows at Punahou School
  • Japanese: pitaya (ピタヤ), dragon fruit (ドラゴンフルーツ),
  • Korean: Yong-gwa (용과, 龍果, literal translation of dragon fruit),
  • Portuguese: pitaia, cato-barse, cardo-ananaz, rainha da noite
  • Spanish: pitahaya roja (Costa Rica, 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
  • Thai: แก้วมังกร (kaeo mangkon)
  • Malay: buah naga. pronounce:boo-ah naa-gaa
  • Chinese: 火龙果, 火龍果; pinyin: huǒlóngguǒ
  • Italian: Pitahaya, Frutto del Drago
  • Bengali: ড্রাগন ফল (dragon fal)
  • Lithuanian: kertuotis
  • Myanmar: နဂါးမောက်သီး

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Selenicereus undatus (Haw.) D.R.Hunt". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 11 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Selenicereus Britton & Rose". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
  3. ^ "Hylocereus undatus". Llifle - Encyclopedia of Living Forms. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  • Anderson, E. F. 2001. The cactus family. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon[ISBN missing]

External links[edit]