Botanical illustration: Hylocereus costaricensis, the Costa Rican dragon fruit

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The above drawing shows the lovely fruit of the cactus Hylocereus costaricensis, or the Costa Rican Pitahaya. This fruit is known as “dragon fruit” to most, but the term “dragon fruit” applies to a variety of cacti within the genera Hylocereus and Stenocereus, both genera of night-blooming cacti native to South America. Fruit from Stenocereus cacti tend to be called Pitaya and are slightly sour, whereas fruits of Hylocereus cacti tend to be called Pitahaya and are sweeter in flavor. I’ve never had a fresh fruit, but I hear both fruits are deliciously refreshing and have a texture reminiscent of watermelon, but with edible kiwi-like seeds.

        H. costaricensis is often grown as an ornamental vine that can grow as an epiphyte (growing upon other plants) or as a xerophyte (growing in water deficient areas), and its species name reflects its origin of discovery, Costa Rica. The fruit, which is more round relative to other dragon fruits, is mainly cultivated in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Both the skin and flesh of H. costaricensis are both a deep magenta-red, and the seeds are small, black, and embedded throughout the flesh.

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