The dragon fruit / pitaya plant is a climbing cactus vine that grows well in dry areas. Because of its epiphytic nature, it grows best in soil with a high level of organic materials. The flowers are white and large sometimes measuring 30cm and larger. They are ornate and produce a sweet fragrance when in bloom. The flowers bloom for one night only. Dragon fruits are also called cactus fruits. They are closely related to the orchid cacti or epiphyllum. Epiphyllums are known for their large and impressive flowers. The fruit is popularly eaten raw and tastes better chilled. It is also served as a juice. The flesh is sweet and sometimes served with mango in a tropical sorbet. Dragon fruits reputedly improve eyesight and prevent hypertension. The seeds of the fruit supposed help in controlling blood glucose levels in people with non-insulin-dependent hyperglycaemic conditions (a kind of diabetes). It is also used to treat stomach and endocrine problems.
This Dragon Fruit is the common red-fleshed variety. It is known for being a super fruit, having high antioxidants due to its deep red flesh. The plant is strong branching and tolerates heat well. The stems are approximately 400 to 480mm across, clinging to tree trunks by many aerial roots. As stems emerge they are often reddish when new, then turn waxy, blue-white, and later to green. Also, the ribs of the stem are deeper, to begin with, but as the stems mature they become thicker. Mature plants produce 380mm long blooms with white petals and red and yellow outer petals. Flower budding to flower is 30 days and another 30 days from flower to fruit. The natural habitat occurs in Colombia and Panama where the average annual temperature ranges from 22-27 degrees Celsius.
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