Hylocereus calcaratus (also called Selenicereus calcaratus) is a little-known epiphytic cactus that differs from its relatives with an interesting ribbed stem and huge flowers.
Selenicereus calcaratus grows shrubby with high climbing shoots. The triangular, bright green shoots reach diameters of 4 to 7 centimeters. Their lateral surfaces are flat to deeply concave. The edges have conspicuously rounded projections on the end of which sit the small areoles. The 1 to 3 flexible, white to cream-colored spines are 2 to 4 millimeters long.
The funnel-shaped flowers, 35 to 37 centimeters long, appear near the shoot tips and are white. Their flower tube is strongly upward curved. The funnel is 250 mm long, the outer petals are bent back, have a greenish tint, the inner ones are white. The stamens and pistil are white.
This dragon fruit tree belongs to the Cactaceae family and is a rather large forest cactus. The stems are formed of 3-4 faces, reaching up to 10 meters in length.
Plants are fast growing. The stems of a plant are abundantly covered with thin roots that often serve as climbing supports.
Distribution, systematics and endangerment
When the plant comes into vigor and reaches a large size, usually in its 2nd or 3rd year, it blooms and is ready to bear fruit. In tropical climates, Chilocereus blooms and bears fruit three to four times. In temperate climates, flowering usually occurs in late spring or early summer. Plenty of sunlight and clean care is needed for abundant flowering and fruiting.
The first description as Cereus calcaratus was published in 1902 by Frédéric Albert Constantin Weber. Another nomenclatural synonym is Hylocereus calcaratus (F.A.C.Weber) Britton & Rose (1909). David Richard Hunt placed the species in the genus Selenicereus in 2017.
The flowers of dragonfruit are considered some of the largest among the representatives of cacti. Their size reaches 37 cm in diameter. Flowering is nocturnal and lasts only a few hours. White or purplish-red petals with fill the air with a pleasant fragrance.
After pollination, fruits are set. Their size is surprising, as are their health benefits. The diameter of a fruit can increase to the size of a small watermelon. The flesh of the fruit is white, pink, red and edible.
Selenicereus calcaratus is common in Costa Rica on the Atlantic coast in Limón Province at low elevations up to 500 meters.
In the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the species is listed as Endangered, i.e., critically endangered.
Home care for hylocereus
Indoor pitahaya is very easy to care for. For its planting, choose light soil mixes saturated with nutrients. If you want, you can use a purchased soil mixture for cacti. The pot for such a cactus choose quite large, because he has a developed system of roots.
In regions with mild climates and warm winters, such a cactus can be grown in the garden. Of course, hylocereus is closer to a tropical climate, but it is not afraid of a cold snap to 0 degrees. If the plant is an adult, then choose a well-lit or slightly shaded place for its planting, as long as it is warm. It is also recommended to install a support near the shrub, on which it can climb up.
This cactus requires watering rarely. It is carried out only after the lump of soil in the pot is completely dry. With the onset of autumn, watering is carried out about once every 7 days. And in winter you need to make a break in watering for 30 days. During this time, the bush will be able to rest well, and then in the new season it will please you with lush blooms. So do not forget to arrange a resting period for the cactus.
So, let’s talk about propagation methods
Grown from seed
Pitaya can be propagated by seeds. They must be dry, well matured, and they should not be more than two years old. At the bottom of a small container should be placed fine claydite or pebbles. Then fill the drainage layer with a mixture of leaf soil and sand (1:1). Moisten the substrate and immerse the seeds in it for 10-15 mm. Seeds are covered with a film on top and removed to a well-lit place where the air temperature is kept at 20 degrees. The first seedlings should show after 15-25 days.
This plant can be propagated vegetatively by using part of a shoot. After the cuttings are cut, leave it outdoors for 2 days. Then plant it for rooting in a light sandy substrate, after which it is transferred to a shady place. The cuttings should take about 30 days to take root. During this time, don’t forget to systematically moisten the cuttings, and refill the tray with water if necessary. As soon as the cuttings grow their roots, it begins to accustom it to bright light, but do it gradually.
Hylocereus is very resistant to pests and diseases. However, if the rules of care with the plant are violated, problems can begin. For example, if the roots will stagnate liquid or it will get on the shoots, it will cause the development of rot. It can cause the death of the bush. Rot develops particularly quickly if the room is too cool.
If the room is hot and humidity is low, the plant can become infested with mealybugs or spider mites. In this case, systematically moisten the cactus with a sprayer or spray it with insecticide.
In conclusion, this pitahaya tree is an interesting and unique cactus that can be a great addition to any garden. It is easy to care for, and its brightly colored flowers are sure to add a splash of color to any landscape. If you are looking for a new cactus to add to your collection, be sure to consider Hylocereus calcaratus.