Hylocereus costaricensis



Hylocereus costaricensis

(F.A.C.Weber) Britton & Rose 1909

pronounced: hy-loh-KER-ee-uss koss-tuh-ree-KEN-siss

(Cactaceae — the cactus family)


common names: red-fleshed red pitaya, dragonfruit

Hylocereus is from the Greek 'υλη (hyle), a forest, and the Latin cereus, a candle, referring to its nocturnal blooming habit; costaricensis is botanical Latin, 'from Costa Rica'.

The origin of the species is Central America and north-western South America. The species is grown commercially for its fruit, but is also an impressive ornamental vine. In its native state it is found in dry forest and coastal areas, up to about 1400 m in altitude. It is usually found growing on trees, and can climb very high. It can form massive colonies, and the weight of its succulent stems can eventually bring trees down.

The plant pictured is growing in a Picnic Bay garden.

This is a sprawling or vining, terrestrial or epiphytic cactus, that climbs by means of aerial roots. The genus is very variable, and closely related to the yellow pitaya. The stems branch profusely, and are usually 5 – 10 m in length or longer, with joints 30 – 120 cm or longer, and 10 -12 cm thick, generally with 3 ribs; the margins are corneous with age, and undulate. Aureolae are 2 mm across; spines on adult branches are up to about 4 mm long, being acicular to almost conical, greyish brown to black in colour.

The scented, nocturnal flowers are 25 – 30 cm long, 15 – 17 cm across, with the pericarpel 2.5 – 5 cm long and about 2.5 cm thick; the outer tepals are lanceolate to linear, acuminate, 10 – 15 cm long by 1 – 1.5 cm wide, and mucronate. They are greenish yellow or whitish, rarely rose-tinged; the inner tepals are lanceolate to oblanceolate, 10 -15 cm long and about 4 cm wide at their widest point, mucronate, and white.

The fruit is oblong to oval, up to about 12 cm long and 9 cm thick, red with large bracteoles, with red pulp and black seeds.

If buying these fruit in the supermarket, look for bright, even-coloured skin. There will be a few blotches, but more than a few mean that the fruit is over-ripe. If the fruit is held in the palm of the hand and its skin pressed gently with the thumb, it should give just a little.

To eat the fruit, simply cut it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. The tiny seeds may be eaten along with the fruit, but do not eat the skin. The sweetest part of the fruit is in the middle.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2013-2015
Page last updated 15th January 2019