Hawaii Gardens: Dragon Fruit Popping Up in Isle Gardens

By Bornhorst, Heidi | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, March 17, 2019 | Go to article overview

Hawaii Gardens: Dragon Fruit Popping Up in Isle Gardens


Bornhorst, Heidi, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Question: When did dragon fruit come to us here in Hawaii? Seems kinda recent to me, but one of my gardening writing friends tells me it’s been here since the late 1800s. Please inform. Mahalo. — KD, Kahala

Answer: I’d heard the night-blooming cereus has been here for a long time and has an interesting survival at sea/revival by horticulture story. But I had also heard the dragon fruit-bearing plant had arrived more recently. So, I did some digging and the answer is both.

Ken Love, one of my go-to fruit experts, said Big Island farmer Gregg Adams brought the plants from Vietnam in the late 1960s or early ’70s. Since then others have introduced cultivars from places such as Israel.

The plant, which is a type of cactus, is native to Mexico and Central America where we get the common name pitaya or pitahaya. Now widely grown by masterful horticulturists and entrepreneurial farmers in Thailand and Vietnam, dragon fruit is being seen more in Hawaii home gardens.

The most famous planting of night-blooming cereus (aka panini o ka Punahou) in Hawaii is on the rock wall surrounding Punahou School in Makiki.

Horticulturist Richard ­Criley of the University of Hawaii at Manoa has been monitoring the night-blooming cereus’ flowering cycles at Punahou for about 20 years, and sometimes sees fruit. He contends that hand-pollination is needed for the plants to set fruit here in Hawaii.

It’s possible that when dragon fruit was brought here in the 1960s, farmers and young scientists were hand-pollinating them, resulting in a fruit harvest. …

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