Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cacti Fruits & Flowers

Here are photos of four edible cacti. Each species is unique. Most are native to Central and South America. They make good additions to a tropical, desert or xeriscape garden. They can be propagated by either seed or cuttings, the latter being a quicker way to have a large fruiting specimen. Best of all they all produce delicious fruits.

Cereus repandus
Cereus repandus fruit

Family: Cactaceae •
Country of Origin: Peru •
Common Names: Peruvian Apple Cactus,
Club Cactus

This fruit was sweet like sugar cane and refreshing sort of like having a drink of water. The edible flesh is white and contains small, edible, crunchy seeds. This is a beautiful columnar cacti up to 30' tall and it is commonly grown as ornamental. The flowers are white, large (6" in diameter) and release an intoxicatingly, heavenly fragrance at night. Here's an amazing photo of the flower.
Cereus repandus flower
Photo by T. McGovern ( original photo @ © 2009 All Rights Reserved

This plant likes to be watered but it needs excellent drainage so a sandy type soil would be best. It will thrive in full or partial sun. The sad news is this species is endangered in it's native habitat. (

Hylocereus undatus
Hylocereus undatus immature fruit

Hylocereus undatus fruit

Family: Cactaceae •
Genus: Hylocereus •
Species: undatus •
Country of Origin: Mexico •
Common Names: Dragon Fruit, Pitaya, Pitahaya •

This is a vining, terrestrial or epiphytic cactus that can grow up to 20' and they can quickly spread through an entire tree. It has night blooming fragrant flower that lasts only one night much like the Cereus repandus. Here's a beautiful picture of the flower.

Hylocereus undatus flower
Photo by Alonso Salazar Garibay
( original photo @ © 2009 All Rights Reserved

Hylocereus stenopterus flower
Photo by Warren Condon (note: this is Hylocereus stenopterus which has unusual pink flowers.)© 2009 All Rights Reserved

This delicious fruit is usually eaten right out-of-hand especially if chilled and cut in half so that the flesh can be eaten with a spoon and, it is considered the best of all cacti fruits. The unopened flower bud can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. I have a nice cutting growing that I received from Bill Whitman, on the east wall of my house. It has really taken off this year I can't wait for my first fruit!!!! This is a tropical plant although it will tolerate light frost. It will grow in most soil types and will thrive when grown in a medium enriched with organic matter. Full to partial sun for optimal fruiting.

Pereskia aculeata
Pereskia aculeata flower

Family: Cactaceae

Country of Origin:
West Indies

Common Names: Barbados Gooseberry,

This is the beautiful flower of a Barbados Gooseberry. To some people, the flowers are lemon-scented; others say sweet and pungent in odor. This is a scrambling vine that can grow up to 30' in a tree, a lot less though typically in cultivation. The fruit is a yellow to orange berry 2 cm in diameter, edible, containing numerous small seeds. The fruits also have remnants of the calyx on them & sometimes through them as well. When they are fully ripe they easily brush off which gives you an easy way to know when they are ready to eat. Here is a great photo where you can see the calyx growing right through the fruit.

Pereskia aculeata fruit
Photo by Jim West ( original photo @© 2009 All Rights Reserved

They are sour but tasty!!! This is truly a unique cacti it belongs to a genus of unusual cacti with spiny non-succulent stems and large leaves. One of the few cacti that still use leaves for photosynthesis. I've started some from seeds they are growing like weeds. Flourishing with little or no care, the plant is drought-tolerant and suffers from over-watering.

Pereskia bleo

Pereskia bleo stem & leaves very unusual for cacti!

Pereskia bleo unopened flower
Pereskia bleo (left) & Pereskia aculeata (right) fruit.

Pereskia bleo fruit.

Family: Cactaceae •
Genus: Pereskia •
Species: bleo •
Country of Origin: Tropical America •
Common Names: Rose Cactus, Wax Rose •

This genus is unlike most other cacti because they have true leaves. Pereskia has now been determined to be the ancestral genus from which all other cacti evolved. This species can grow up to 9 feet tall and has amazing red, rose like flowers. The fruits are oddly shaped as you can see above. Sour and mucilaginous, but I found them tasty!

update 07-22-2009: I just added some new beautiful photos after getting proper permission to use them.

Creative Commons License
Cacti Fruits & Flowers by Eric Bronson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at