Stenocereus queretaroensis

Stenocereus queretaroensis dragon fruit tree

Stenocereus queretaroensis (also called Cereus queretaroensis, Lemaireocereus queretaroensis, Pachycereus queretarensis, Ritterocereus queretaroensis, Rathbunia queretaroensis, Glandulicereus queretaroensis) is a type of cactus that grows in the state of Querétaro in Mexico. It is grown because of its fruit.


Stenocereus queretaroensis is a columnar cactus that grows in the subtropical semiarid lands of Mexico. Both wild and cultivated populations of this plant produce edible fruits with bright colors. Pitaya is a fruit that has only been cultivated for a short time. In the last 10 years, it has become a fruit crop that can be grown with a low amount of human-made energy or water.

Stenocereus queretaroensis lives in dry scrub and deciduous forests up to 1800 meters high in the Mexican states of Querétaro, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Colima, and Michoacán. Albert Mathsson was the first person to call this plant Cereus queretaroensis. This was in 1891. In 1961, Franz Buxbaum put the species in the Stenocereus genus.

Plants can be up to 5–6 m (16–20 ft) tall, with a central trunk and many upturned branches that make the plant look like a candelabra. The stems are about 6 inches (15 cm) wide and have six to eight clear ribs. The areoles make five to nine whitish radial spines that can be up to 2 cm (0.8 in) long and one to four grayer central spines, the lower ones of which can be up to 4 cm (1.6 in) long (1.6 in).

Near the tips of the shoots are funnel-shaped, fragrant flowers. They open in the evening and stay open until the morning. The flowers are between 7.8 and 8.4 centimeters long and 4.5 to 6.7 centimeters across. In the area of the nectary chamber, the flower tube is a little bit puffed out. Both the flower tube and the pericarp are smooth. The green or red to purple fruits are more or less round and reach a diameter of 5 to 6 cm. They have spines and hairs all over their bodies. The meat can be white, red, or purple.

Cultivation status :Cultivated, wild
Habit: Evergreen tree
Height: 6.00 m
Edibility rating:4 out of 5
Other uses:3 out of 5

Stenocereus spp. are grown in parts of Mexico that get between 400 and 700 mm of rain a year, have average annual temperatures between 20 and 22°C, and don’t get too cold. It looks like irrigation doesn’t change when S. queretaroensis flowers or how many fruits it makes. It grows well in sandy-loam soils that are slightly acidic, but it also does well in stony, less fertile soils that other crops can’t grow in.

The species is not in danger, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which lists it as Least Concern (LC).


Pitaya’s name came from the Antilles, where it meant “scaly fruit”. Ancient Mexicans called this fruit “Coapetilla,” which means “thick serpent,” because the stems look like snakes. Since before the arrival of the Spaniards, different species of Stenocereus have been important parts of the diets of Indian tribes living in tropical semiarid areas along the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, as well as in subtropical semiarid areas in the interior of Mexico. Pitayas were one of the Seri Indians’ most important foods and their favorite plant. After the fruits dried, they were usually kept. Both the seeds and the petals were taken off and eaten.

Sinaloa is a state whose name means “land of pitayas.” Because their name comes from the Cahitas, “Sina” means “pitaya” and “Lobola” means “round” (redonda). This means that “Sinaloa” means “round pitaya” or “round pitahaya” in English.

The Nahoas Indians ate two kinds of fruit, both in the past and the present. He talked about the white, red, and yellow flesh inside the white, red, and yellow pitaya fruits. The Nahoas were known for their “wine celebrations” during the harvest of pitaya. This was the time of year when the old people invited the nearby towns to make war alliances.

The Californian of Cocachimies tribes also valued pitahaya fruits because they used them as a source of food. As a “second harvest” of pitayas, the seeds were roasted and ground to make flan, which was eaten during the winter.

Commercial planting

Pitaya are columnar cacti that grow in subtropical parts of Mexico. Their fruit is colorful and tasty. Pitahaya are in the tribe Pachycereae of the subfamily Cactoideae. Stenocereae, which includes the genus Stenocereus and its 24 species found from the southwestern United States to Venezuela and Peru, is the most important subtribe from a business point of view.

Stenocereus has been an important part of the diets of Indian tribes living in tropical semiarid plains along the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, as well as in subtropical semiarid areas of Mexico’s interior. These trees grows mainly at the tips of its branches, and this only happens in the fall and early winter (October through December). The flowers start to look different in early February and stop by early April. The fruits are ready to eat from early March to the end of May.

Commercial planting started in the late 1800s and has always been done on a small scale. Yet pitayas were one of the most important fruit crops at the start of this century.

S. queretaroensis was first planted in a planned way in Southwestern Jalisco, in an area called the Sayula Basin (68 km south – southwest of Guadalajara). In the states of Jalisco, Colima, and Zacatecas, wild populations grow on rocky slopes with shallow soils 1300 to 1600 m above sea level. People grow their own crops in the Sayula Basin between 1000 and 1400 m.

Sayula Basin, where dragon fruits grows, has temperatures that are not too hot or too cold. The average nighttime temperature ranges from 8°C to 18°C, and the average daytime temperature ranges from 24°C to 34°C. From the coolest to the warmest month, the difference between the lowest and highest temperatures is only 8°C. Subzero air temperatures are rare.

The average annual rainfall is nearly 700 mm, and most of it falls in the summer. Sixty-four percent of the annual rainfall falls between June and August, while only ten percent falls between January and May.

Most of the work has been done by picking out the best phenotypes, with a focus on fruit quality instead of biomass production. Pitayas don’t need a lot of water or fertilizer to grow. Because of these things, small farms in Mexico have been interested in these cacti.

Establishing and managing plantation

S. queretaroensis plants grown in gardens do best in deep, slightly acidic, sandy-loam soils, but they can also grow well in stony, poor soils that aren’t good for most crops. In fact, growing pitahaya has helped turn unproductive land in the Sayula Basin into land that can be used for farming

To start an orchard, you plant the ends of stems that are between 80 and 120 cm long and 4 to 5 years old. These pieces are cut off of branches that have been bearing fruit for at least two years before they bloom.

Some orchards in the Sayula Basin are watered when it’s very dry because it makes plants stronger, makes more flowers, and makes the fruit bigger. Fertilizers are rarely used, in part to keep the roots from getting “burned”.

Most plants aren’t pruned, even though it makes it easier to get the fruit off the branches. Some plants in home gardens are grafted with up to five different kinds of fruit to add variety.

Pests and diseases don’t bother all that much. Spring frosts sometimes hurt the buds when they are just starting to grow. Flowers that fall apart after anthesis often have ovules that aren’t fully developed, which could be a sign of early aging or lack of fertilization. The larvae of beetles eat the pericarp of developing fruits, which causes the fruit to fall off. Ants can also cause young fruits to drop off, and pesticides are sometimes used to get rid of them.

Stenocereus queretaroensis ripe dragon fruit photo

Quality of fruits and yield

In the Sayula Basin, where pitaya is grown, the “Mamey” variety is the most important one. It produces 80% of all the fruit. For plants that are about the same age, the average annual harvest is between 45 and 98 fruits per plant, and the average weight of each fruit is between 120 and 165 grams.

When compared to cactus pear, more of the pitaya fruit is eaten. The peel is taken off to get to the edible pulp. For cactus pears, the peel makes up 40% to 45% of the fresh weight, but for fruits of S. queretaroensis, it only makes up 18% to 24%.

Also, cactus pears have large, hard-to-chew seeds that make up almost 4% of their fresh weight, while pitahayas have small seeds that are easy to chew and digest.

Anna Gorelova
Anna Gorelova
S. queretaroensis takes 40–50 days from when the flower buds come out to when the flowers open, and 80–90 days after the flowers open, the fruit is ready to eat.

The dragonfruits have a short shelf life, so you should eat them within a few hours of buying them. In fact, when fruits are picked, the peel is often split open, letting the colorful pulp show. One of the main things that makes it hard to sell pitayas is that they naturally split open when they are ready. With the pulp exposed, picked fruits go bad in 1–2 days if they are not kept cool.

The pitaya is a fruit that is acidic. The pH can be anywhere from 3.9 to 5.0, and the amount of malic acid can be anywhere from 0.14% to 0.50%. 10% to 11% of the fresh weight is made up of sugars, and almost all of them are reducing sugars, which are easier to digest than nonreducing sugars. When compared to apples, apricots, cherries, oranges, and cactus pears, the amount of sugar in pitahaya pulp is not as high. As is typical for fruits, the pulp has very little protein, but the seeds have almost 1 g of protein per kilogram of fresh weight.

Pitaya plants get more fruit as they get older, which is because the number and length of the stems on which the fruit grows also grows. At 20 years old, the fresh weight of the fruits that have been picked can be about 16 metric tons/ha. After that, fruit production goes up by about 25% every year until it reaches its peak at about 40 years old. 100-year-old S. queretaroensis plants in the Sayula Basin can still make fruit, but less and less as parts of the older stems die off (Pimienta-Barrios and Nobel, 1994).

Vegetative and reproductive growth

Most of S. queretaroensis’ stem growth happens in the fall, when air temperatures are cooler and there is less water in the soil. For example, 85% of a plant’s annual growth rate happens from December to January, when it grows 0.26 cm per day.

So, this dragon fruit variety is a slow-growing plant like other columnar cacti that produce edible fruit, but it grows faster than young cladodes of Opuntia in similar conditions or other herbaceous and woody plants.

Even when there isn’t enough water, these plants often keep growing and reproducing. However, they tend to be less flexible than plants that grow faster. Low plasticity is a common trait of cultivated S. queretaroensis because irrigation doesn’t affect stem extension much, even when other factors like temperature and light are good for photosynthesis and growth.

Even in deep alluvial soils, the low growth rates of farmed S. queretaroensis are linked to low levels of nitrogen, chlorophyll, and some micronutrients (Fe, Mn). Low growth rates may also be caused by low levels of hormones like gibberellic acid.

For example, gibberellic acid injected into the stems of 100-year-old plants that have stopped growing makes the stems grow again in a month.

The rate of flower growth is 0.31 cm per day-1, and it takes 22 days from when the flower buds come out to when the flower opens. After the perianth falls off, the developing fruit is about 15% longer on plants that get water than on plants that get rain. In about 40 days, the length of the fruit is more than 90% of its full size.

It takes about 90 days from anthesis to maturity, so the flowers are bigger. The fact that watering during the last stages of flower and fruit growth makes them grow longer suggests that, like other fleshy fruits, this growth is caused by cells getting longer. When compared to peaches, plums, apples, and avocados, S. queretaroensis fruits are ready to eat sooner than those of other cacti (like Opuntia), plums, apples, and apples.

Plant facts

  1. Needs a sunny spot and soil that drains well;
  2. Prefers a pH between 6 and 7.5;
  3. The young fruits have spines, but as the fruit ripens, the spines fall off;
  4. Plants that are already grown are very resistant to drought;
  5. Cuttings and seeds are used to spread the plant;
  6. The flowers can’t pollinate themselves, so bats are thought to do it;
  7. Organ pipe cacti have gone through a lot of changes, and many species have been in more than one genus at different times;
  8. The fruits on the cultivated plants are much bigger and have much thinner peels than those on their wild relatives.


In conclusion, Stenocereus queretaroensis is a species of cactus that is native to Mexico. It is a fast-growing plant that can reach up to 20 feet in height. The plant produces white flowers that bloom at night and are pollinated by bats. The fruit of the plant is edible and has a great taste.


Where can I find this cactus in the wild?
The best place to find Stenocereus queretaroensis in the wild is in Mexico. This cactus is native to the country and can be found in the state of Querétaro.
How can I care for this cacti?
To care for Stenocereus queretaroensis, water it regularly and place it in a sunny spot. It is also important to fertilize the plant regularly.
How can I grow this cactus?
To grow Stenocereus queretaroensis, you will need a well-draining cactus mix and a pot that is at least 8 inches wide. Place the plant in a sunny spot and water it deeply, then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. In the winter, water only enough to keep the plant from shriveling.
How can I water my cactus?
To water Stenocereus queretaroensis, you will need to provide it with a deep watering every week. Make sure the soil is moist but not soggy, and allow the plant to dry out slightly between waterings.
Michael Gorelov
Rate author
Exotic fruits and vegetables
So, what do you think about it?

By clicking the "Post Comment" button, I consent to processing personal information and accept the privacy policy.