Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hylocereus undatus

Almost 20 years ago, while waiting for an order of Chinese Take out food on the corner of Ave. B and East 6th Street in The East Village, I noticed the slowly dying orchid cactuses that had looked so cool when the little place opened a year earlier.  I pinched a couple of branches and put them in soil in my apartment window. They began to grow and a few years later, the ceiling of the room they were in had turned into a real jungle of lush hanging orchid cactus branches.
One night I saw that they had developed buds. The buds got bigger over the next few weeks until one night, they started to open. The huge snow white flowers (6 to 7 inches across) open for one night.
In the jungles, the flowers are pollenated by bats. I didn't have any bats handy....
Dragon fruit for sale in a market.
When I moved to France, I took a few of the branches with me in my luggage. Now, I have another tropical jungle corner. The cactus is called a Night Blooming Cereus and is pretty spectacular. It bloomed this evening and here is a picture of one of the blooms. It has a scent and they really only last one night.
Because I have never pollenated the flowers, I never knew that they developed a fruit, but I have seen and bought the fruit in oriental markets for years. They are called Dragon Fruit or Pitaya...and have a taste like a kiwi. Only this evening, after taking the photos and doing a little reading did I realize that the Hylocereus undatus was the source of this rather spectacular exotic, I'm going to try to pollenate them by hand and see what develops!


Nomi said...

In Nicaragua, I have tasted a drink made from the juice of pitaya (there was an *h* or two in there sometime), which was always a deep pink color.

There was considerable sugar & occasionally ice and it was divine.

? Pitahaya ? Pithaya ?

Also squishy seeds and not like kiwis I have known.

microdot said...

My wife tells me that dragon fruit is not like a kiwi as well...she had them in Thailand where they are now quite popular. We see them in the imported fruit markets here. I hand pollenated some of my flowers and and they closed up and we shall see what develops.

Do you know the prickly pear? I have opuntia cacti and they have nice big red fruits. I know in Mexico they make jelly from them and call them tuna. Cacti are such amazing and surprisingly diverse plants.

Graham Dawson said...

The fruits to the left are Sugar Apples. The grow all over the Caribbean and are full of seeds and yummy sweetness. I ate about a hundred of them over the last month.