A pitaya (/pɪˈtaɪ.ə/) or pitahaya (/ˌpɪtəˈhaɪ.ə/) the fruit of several different cactus species indigenous to the Americas.[1][2] Pitaya usually refers to fruit of the genus Stenocereus, while pitahaya or dragon fruit refers to fruit of the genus Hylocereus, both in the Cactaceae family. The dragon fruit is cultivated in Southeast Asia, Florida, the Caribbean, Australia, and throughout tropical and subtropical world regions.

Pitaya cross section ed2
Longitudinal section of a ripe pitahaya
Dragonfruit Chiayi market
Pitaya at a market stall in Taiwan

Vernacular names of Hylocereus

These fruits are commonly known in English as "dragon fruit", a name used since around 1993, apparently resulting from the leather-like skin and prominent scaly spikes on the fruit exterior.[3] The names pitahaya and pitaya derive from Mexico, and pitaya roja in Central America and northern South America, possibly relating to pitahaya for names of tall cacti species with flowering fruit.[2][4] The fruit may also be known as a strawberry pear or thang.[5]


Dragon fruit juice being sold in Thailand

Pitahaya-producing cacti of the genus, Hylocereus, are native to a region including Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and northern South America.[1][2] The dragon fruit is cultivated in Southeast Asia, Florida, the Caribbean, Australia, and throughout tropical and subtropical world regions.[1][2]



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) in the Sonoran Desert has been an important food source for indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Seri people of northwestern Mexico still harvest the fruit, 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), are also locally important foods. The fruit of the organ pipe cactus (S. thurberi, 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 traditional medicine.

Dragon fruit Hylocereus

Dragon fruit
Ripe dragon fruit in Vietnam

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

  • Hylocereus undatus (Pitaya blanca or white-fleshed pitaya) has pink-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.

The fruit normally weighs from 150 to 600 grams (5.3 to 21.2 oz); some may reach 1 kilogram (2.2 lb). Early imports from Colombia to Australia were designated Hylocereus ocampensis (or Cereus repandus, the red fruit) and Cereus triangularis (supposedly, the yellow fruit). It is not quite certain to which species these taxa refer.


Pitaya (seedling)
Pitaya seedling
Lianjiang County - Dongdai Town - Yangguang Dragong Fruit Farm - P1510432
A dragon fruit field in China

After thorough cleaning of the seeds from the pulp of the fruit, the seeds may be stored when dried. Ideally, the fruit is 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.

Commercial plantings can be done at high density with between 1100 and 1350 plants per hectare. Plants can take up to five years to come into full commercial production, at which stage yields of 20 to 30 tons per hectare can be expected.[6]

Pitaya flowers bloom overnight and usually wilt by the morning.[7] 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.[2][8]

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. In numerous regions, it has escaped cultivation to become a weed and is classified as an invasive weed in some countries.[1]

Pests and diseases

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.[9]


The fruit's texture is sometimes likened to that of the kiwifruit because of its black, crunchy seeds. The flesh is bland, mildly sweet and low in calories. The seeds have a nutty taste. The seeds are rich in lipids.[10] Dragon fruit is also used to flavor (and color) juices and alcoholic beverages, such as "Dragon's Blood Punch" and the "Dragotini".[11] The flowers can be eaten or steeped as tea.[12]

The red and purple colors of Hylocereus fruits are due to betacyanins, a family of pigments that includes betanin, the same substance that gives beets, Swiss chard, and amaranth their red color.[13][14]

Dragon fruit (manufacturer entry)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy268 kcal (1,120 kJ)
82.14 g
Sugars82.14 g
Dietary fiber1.8 g
3.57 g
VitaminsQuantity %DV
Vitamin C
9.2 mg
MineralsQuantity %DV
107 mg
39 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database


As the nutrient content of raw pitaya has not been thoroughly analyzed as of 2018, the US Department of Agriculture reports one limited entry from a manufacturer, showing that a 100 gram amount of pitaya contains 268 calories, 82% carbohydrates, 4% protein, and 11% of the Daily Value each for vitamin C and calcium (table).

Seed oils

The fatty acid compositions of two pitaya seed oils were determined as follows:[10]

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%


Hylocereus undatus in bloom in Kona

Nocturnal pitahaya flowers

Pitaya cross section ed2

White pitahaya Hylocereus undatus

Yellow dragon fruit (50831s)

Yellow pitahaya Hylocereus megalanthus

Hylocereus polyrhizus

’Red pitahaya, Hylocereus costaricensis

Pitaya Colors

Pitaya fruit in various colors

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

ড্রাগন ফল, বাংলদেশ

Pitaya fruit in Bangladesh

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Hylocereus undatus (dragon fruit)". CABI. 3 January 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e 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. Archived from the original on 5 May 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Dragon fruit". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Dragon fruit". National Library Board, Singapore Government. 2017. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  5. ^ Mitcham, Elizabeth Jeanne; Freitas, Sérgio Tonetto de (August 2013). "Quality of pitaya fruit (Hylocereus undatus) as influenced by storage temperature and packaging". Scientia Agricola. 70 (4): 257–262. doi:10.1590/S0103-90162013000400006. ISSN 0103-9016.
  6. ^ "Dragon Fruit - Amorentia Sweet Dragon Fruit". Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  7. ^ Boning, Charles R. (2006). Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-56164-372-1.
  8. ^ Setzer, Kenneth (26 July 2014). "Dragon fruit surprisingly easy to grow". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 20 March 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  11. ^ Small, Ernest (2011). Top 100 Exotic Food Plants. CRC Press. p. 105. ISBN 9781439856888. Archived from the original on 18 November 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  12. ^ K, Lim T. (2012). Edible Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants: Volume 1, Fruits. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 641. ISBN 9789048186617. Archived from the original on 18 November 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  13. ^ O. P. S. Rebecca, A. N. Boyce and S. Chandran (2010), "Pigment identification and antioxidant properties of red dragon fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus)" African Journal of Biotechnology, volume 9, issue 10, pages 1450-1454.
  14. ^ C. S. Tang and M. H. Norziah (2007) "Stability of betacyanin pigments from red purple pitaya fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus): Influence of pH, temperature, metal ions and ascorbic acid" Indonesian Journal of Chemistry, volume 7, issue 3, pages 327-331.

External links

  • Media related to Pitaya at Wikimedia Commons
Acanthocereus tetragonus

Acanthocereus tetragonus is a species of cactus that is native to Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the United States, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, and northern South America. Common names include night-blooming cereus, barbed-wire cactus, sword-pear, dildo cactus, triangle cactus, and Órgano-alado de pitaya (Spanish). It was originally described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 as Cactus tetragonus but was moved to the genus Acanthocereus in 1938 by Pieter Wagenaar Hummelinck.

Bipolaris cactivora

Bipolaris cactivora is a plant pathogen causing cactus stem rot and pitaya fruit rot.

Cereus repandus

Cereus repandus (syn. Cereus peruvianus), the Peruvian apple cactus, is a large, erect, thorny columnar cactus found in South America as well as the nearby ABC Islands of the Dutch Caribbean. It is also known as giant club cactus, hedge cactus, cadushi (in Wayuunaiki), and kayush.

With an often tree-like appearance, its cylindrical gray-green to blue stems can reach 10 metres (33 feet) in height and 10–20 cm in diameter as a self-supporting plant. However, if supported by a scaffold, C. repandus has grown to a height of 110 feet (34 meters) at the SDM College of Dental Sciences at Dharwad, Karnataka, India, technically making this the tallest cactus plant in the world, although no cactus under natural conditions exceeds eighty-two feet (25 meters) in height in the case of C. stenogonus. The large, cream-colored, nocturnal flowers remain open for only one night. The fruits, known locally as pitaya, olala (only in some parts of Bolivia) or Peruvian apple, are thornless and vary in skin colour from violet-red to yellow. The edible flesh is white and contains small, edible, crunchy seeds. The flesh sweetens as the fruit opens out fully.

Cereus repandus is an unresearched, under-utilized cactus, grown mostly as an ornamental plant. As noted above, it has some local culinary importance. The Wayuu from the La Guajira Peninsula of Colombia and Venezuela also use the inner cane-like wood of the plant in wattle and daub construction.

Echinocereus viridiflorus

Echinocereus viridiflorus is a species of cactus known by the common names nylon hedgehog cactus, green pitaya, and small-flowered hedgehog cactus. It is native to the central and south-central United States and northern Mexico, where it can be found in varied habitat types, including desert scrub, woodlands, dry grasslands, and short-grass prairie.This cactus has a small spherical or cylindrical stem 3 centimeters to over 30 centimeters tall and up to 9 centimeters wide. It is mostly unbranched but it may occur in squat clusters of several branches. The body of the plant is ridged and lined with many areoles bearing spines. The spines may be red, yellow, white, purplish, or bicolored, sometimes with darker tips. The flower is up to 3 centimeters long and has tepals in shades of yellowish, brownish, greenish, or occasionally red, with darker reddish midstripes. The tepals are thin at the tips.The taxonomy of the species is uncertain, with authors recognizing several varieties which are sometimes treated as separate species. One variety, var. davisii (sometimes called Echinocereus davisii), Davis' green pitaya, is federally listed as an endangered species. This taxon is very small, reaching no more than 3 centimeters tall. It becomes smaller when water is scarce, withdrawing under the ground, sometimes leaving just some spines sticking out. It has yellow-green flowers. This rare variety is endemic to Brewster County, Texas, where it grows in beds of Selaginella in rocky soils of novaculite origin. There was only one population known as of 1984, and it probably will not expand its range because it is limited to a specific mineral substrate.


Epiphyllum (; "upon the leaf" in Greek) is a genus of 19 species of epiphytic plants in the cactus family (Cactaceae), native to Central America. Common names for these species include climbing cacti, orchid cacti and leaf cacti, though the latter also refers to the genus Pereskia.

The stems are broad and flat, 1–5 cm broad, 3–5 mm thick, usually with lobed edges. The flowers are large, 8–16 cm diameter, white to red, with numerous petals. The fruit is edible, very similar to the pitaya fruit from the closely related genus Hylocereus, though not so large, being only 3–4 cm long. The broad-leaved epiphyllum (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) is particularly well-known. It bears large, strongly fragrant flowers that bloom for a single night only.

The plants known as epiphyllum hybrids, epiphyllums or just epis, which are widely grown for their flowers, are artificial hybrids of species within the tribe Hylocereeae, particularly species of Disocactus, Pseudorhipsalis and Selenicereus. In spite of the common name, Epiphyllum species are less often involved as parents of Epiphyllum hybrids.


Escontria is a genus of cactus. The only species is Escontria chiotilla, the chiotilla or jiotilla. The species originates from Mexico (Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, southern Puebla).

This is a tree-like cactus, up to 7 metres tall. It has 7 or 8 acute ribs, and very close or confluent areoles. It bears dark red fruit comparable in appearance and texture to Pitaya, but smaller (3,5 cm).

Hylocereus costaricensis

Hylocereus costaricensis, the Costa Rican pitahaya or Costa Rica nightblooming cactus, is a cactus species native to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The species is grown commercially for its pitahaya fruit, but is also an impressive ornamental vine with huge flowers. Most plants grown under the name Hylocereus polyrhizus refer to this species. The latter name is ambiguous and not used.

Hylocereus megalanthus

Hylocereus megalanthus is a cactus species in the genus Hylocereus that is native to northern South America, where it is known, along with its fruit, by the name of Pitahaya. The species is grown commercially for its yellow fruit, but is also an impressive ornamental climbing vine with perhaps the largest flowers of all cacti.

The yellow fruit has thorns, unlike the red dragon fruits (H. undatus, H. polyrhizus, H. costaricensis), and is commonly known as "yellow dragon fruit", "yellow pitahaya" or "yellow pitaya".

Hylocereus undatus

Hylocereus 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.

Juice It Up!

Juice It Up! is a franchised raw juice and smoothie bar company. It has 89 locations in its chain with plans to expand and open up 13 more in 2017-2018. Juice It Up! delivers real fruit handcrafted fruit and veggie smoothies, fresh squeezed raw juices, acai and pitaya fruit and smoothie bowls, and cold-pressed bottled juices and shots, as well as healthy snacks. Frank Easterbrook is the company's principal owner along with being the President and CEO. The company is based in Irvine, California, and originated in 1995.

Pitaya Tibnoke

Pitaya Tibnoke (Thai: พิทยา ตีบนอก; born 21 September 1989 in Surin, Thailand) is a weightlifter competing in the 85 kg category. He placed 12th at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Red Pitaya (hardware)

Red Pitaya is an open-source hardware project intended to be alternative for many expensive laboratory measurement and control instruments.

San Bartolo Yautepec

San Bartolo Yautepec is a town and municipality in Oaxaca in south-western Mexico.

It is part of the Yautepec District in the east of the Sierra Sur Region.The municipality covers an area of 196.5 km² at an elevation of 860 meters above sea level in the foothills to the east of the Sierra Madre del Sur.

The climate is hot, with prevalent winds from the north and most rainfall during summer and autumn.

Trees include oak, prickly pear, mahogany, kapok tree, pine, and guanacaste.

Various fruits grow in the area such as avocado, guava, soursop, sapodilla, pitaya, cocoanut, orange, tangerine, pomegranate, lime, lemon, mamey, sapodilla, tamarind, banana and plum.

Wildlife includes coyote, deer, armadillo, badger, rabbit, opossum, squirrel, bobcat, ocelot, wild boar and turtle.As of 2005, the municipality had 177 households with a total population of 661 of whom 195 spoke an indigenous language.

The main economic activity is agriculture, growing maize, sorghum, peanuts and other crops such as beans, coffee and various fruits.

Some people keep cattle, sheep and pigs, and some produce mezcal.

San Juan Lajarcia

San Juan Lajarcia is a town and municipality in Oaxaca in south-western Mexico.

It is part of the Yautepec District in the east of the Sierra Sur Region.The municipality covers an area of 160.75 km² at an elevation of 900 meters above sea level.

The type of climate is warm, with prevailing winds from the north.

Trees include mahogany, cedar, pine and guanacaste.

Fruit trees that grow in the area are sapodilla, mango, pitaya, apricots and plums.

Wildlife includes deer, wild boar, anteater, raccoon, coyote, fox, skunk, bobcat, mountain lion and porcupine.As of 2005, the municipality had 184 households with a total population of 674 of whom 19 spoke an indigenous language.

The houses typically have dirt floors, adobe walls and tile or sheet metal roofs.

The main economic activity is agriculture, growing maize, sorghum, peanuts and other crops such as beans, coffee and various fruits.

Animal husbandry includes cattle, goats and pigs.

Hunting and fishing is practiced for personal consumption.

There is some exploitation of maguey.


Stenocereus (Gk. stenos, narrow, L. cereus, candle) is a genus of columnar or tree-like cacti from the Baja California Peninsula and other parts of Mexico, Arizona in the United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Venezuela and the ABC islands of the Dutch Caribbean. The genus has been enlarged by the addition of species from several other genera. A close relative is the peculiar chinoa or chende cactus, Polaskia chende.

The flowers are mostly borne near the apex of the stems and mostly nocturnal. They are considered easy to grow and generally grow slowly.

Stenocereus thurberi (the organ pipe cactus) is a well-known member of this genus and is widely distributed in Arizona and northern Mexico.

The fruit is similar to a dragon fruit. Those of Stenocereus gummosus, acidic and very refreshing, are highly favored by the Seris of northwestern Mexico who call the cactus ziix is ccapxl - "thing whose fruit is sour". It is commonly known in Spanish as pitaya agria, or by the English translation Sour Pitaya. S. griseus (Dagger Cactus) fruits, locally known as iguaraya, are relished by the Wayuu from the La Guajira Peninsula of Colombia.Stenocereus are often used as ornamental plants in hot and arid regions, and as noted above, some species can double as a fruit crop.

The interior of Stenocereus trunks often grows to form tough, cane-like stakes suitable for certain kinds of construction. The Wayuu use those of Dagger Cactus for building wattle and daub walls, a technique they call yotojoro, after their name for the cactus wood "canes".

Stenocereus eruca

Stenocereus eruca, commonly known as creeping devil, is a member of the family Cactaceae. It is one of the most distinctive cacti, a member of the relatively small genus Stenocereus. It is endemic to the central Pacific coast of Baja California Sur, and is found only on sandy soils, where it forms massive colonies.

As with all cacti, creeping devil is succulent, and is reported to contain mescaline and sterols. Growth patterns can be widely scattered as individual stems; in favorable localities they can form impenetrable patches of branching stems measuring several metres across. The creeping devil is columnar, with a very spiny stem which is creamy green in color, averaging 5 cm in diameter and 1.5–2 m long, with only the terminal end raised from the ground. A height of 20–30 cm is normal since this cactus is recumbent (it grows in a horizontal manner). The large, nocturnal flowers are white, pink, or yellow; usually 10–14 cm long with a spiny ovary, and flowering sparingly in response to rain. The spiny fruit is 3–4 cm long with black seeds.

Creeping devil lies on the ground and grows at one end while the other end slowly dies, with a succession of new roots developing on the underside of the stem. The growth rate is adapted to the moderate, moist marine environment of the Baja peninsula, and can achieve in excess of 60 cm per year, but when transplanted to a hot, arid environment the cacti can grow as little as 60 cm per decade. Over the course of many years, the entire cactus will slowly travel, with stems branching and taking root toward the growing tips, while older stem portions die and disintegrate. This traveling chain of growth gives rise to the name eruca, which means "caterpillar" as well as the common name creeping devil.

Stenocereus eruca is considered the "most extreme case of clonal propagation in the cactus family" (Gibson and Nobel, 1986). This means that due to isolation and scarcity of pollinating creatures, the plant is able to clone itself. This is done by pieces detaching from the major shoot as their bases die and rot.

Other members of this genus that are found in the Baja Peninsula of California are Stenocereus thurberi (organpipe cactus, pitaya dulce) and Stenocereus gummosus (sour pitaya, pitaya agria, pitayha). While once thought to be threatened with extinction, further evidence showed it not to be so.Transplantation, while not recommended due to environmentally specific factors, can be done successfully with strict adherence to maintaining conditions which mirror the native environment.

Stenocereus griseus

Stenocereus griseus, also known as the Mexican organ pipe, dagger cactus, pitaya, and pitayo de mayo, is a species of cactus.

Stenocereus thurberi

Stenocereus thurberi, the organ pipe cactus or pitahaya, is a species of cactus native to Mexico and the United States. The species is found in rocky desert. Two subspecies are recognized based on their distribution and height. The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is named for the species.

Its English common name is derived from its resemblance to a pipe organ. It is locally known as pitaya dulce, Spanish for "sweet pitaya" or sweet cactus fruit.

Thai records in Olympic weightlifting

The following are the national records in Olympic weightlifting in Thailand. Records are maintained in each weight class for the snatch lift, clean and jerk lift, and the total for both lifts by the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association (TAWA).

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