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Common name:Night-blooming cereus
Scientific name:Hylocereus undatus
Alternative common names:
White-fleshed pitaya, dragon fruit, belle of the night, red pitahaya, strawberry pear.
Dragon fruit is fast growing vine-like cactus, often growing in trees and other elevated structures. It is planted as a garden ornamental because of its large white flowers and edible fruit, but can become invasive.
Where does this species come from?Likely originated from Mexico and Central America.
What is its invasive status in South Africa?NEMBA Category 2
Where in South Africa is it a problem?KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.
How does it spread?Plants spread by vegetative means, people plant it for the consumption of its fruit. Birds are known to eat the fruit and disperse its seeds.
Why is it a problem?This species is particularly invasive in KwaZulu-Natal and could have some ecological impacts.
What does it look like?Leaves: Leaves not present, but instead has segmented, three-ribbed branches 4-7,5cm in diameter. These branches can produce aerial roots. Central spines may be present or absent, if present, they are small – 3-6mm long. Flowers: White in colour and 25-30 cm wide Fruit/seeds: Oblong, red fruit with scales and a fleshy edible white pulp inside, embedded with small black seeds.
Does the plant have any uses?Used both as ornamental vine due to its large white flowers which bloom at night. The fruit is also edible and grown commercially in many parts of the world. There is interest in the commercial production of fruit from this cactus in South Africa.