A vining, terrestrial or epiphytic, cactus with fleshy stems to 7 m long in mature plants. Precise origin is unknown, most likely southern Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. It is cultivated for its fruit around the world in tropical regions. Weed risk medium, very hard to eradicate, can form massive colonies.

This genus is of the most widely distributed members of the Cactaceae family. There are three species of dragon fruit in the genus Hylocereus.

Varieties of Hylocereus guatemalensis, Hylocereus polyrhizus, and Hylocereus undatus are grown commercially.

Growing on on Blue Gum. Photo: Mark Crocker

Flowers

Flowers are large and attractive, some species grown as ornamentals. They bloom only at night, and usually last just one night where pollination is necessary to set fruit. Can have up to 4-6 fruiting cycles per year.

In the Enoggera catchment it grows rampantly through dry rainforest, creating havoc.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Growing in dry rainforest

Fruit is round, often red colored with prominent scales. A thin rind encloses the large mass of sweetly flavored white or red pulp and small black seeds. Some varieties are pinkish or yellow. The fruit is popular eaten fresh. It is also used as a flavouring. Unopened flowerbuds are cooked and eaten as vegetables.

The red-fleshed varieties contain lycopene which is a natural antioxidant known to fight cancer, heart disease and lower blood pressure. Today it is the leading fruit export of Vietnam (www.tropicalfruitnursery.com).

Photo: Robert Whyte