Night-blooming cereus (Dragon fruit)

rewired

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May 12, 2020
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I just wanted to take a moment to introduce an interesting plant called the night-blooming cereus. If you've seen a large 6-8" (15-20 cm) red fruit in the grocery store that looks like it's covered with dragon scales, you've probably seen it's fruit (commonly called dragon fruit).

The plant is actually a cactus and it may grow well in sub-tropical areas as well as the tropics, but it seems to thrive here. They grow with almost no care, and do best when they have a tree or something similar to climb.
They are segmented and will often branch when cut. They put out 'air roots' that assist them in climbing as they grow, but need soil at their base.

We have several near our deck, and one started to bud last week.
The first picture is when I first noticed the buds (on the 22nd) and the second shows how much they've grown in just one week (on the 29th).

I'll try to be diligent and add pictures as they grow (and hopefully I'll be lucky enough to catch them on their only night of blooming).

If they produce fruit, I'll post additional pictures as the fruit grow and mature.
Night-blooming cereus1.jpg
Night-blooming cereus2.jpg
 

ClissAT

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You've got exactly the same plants in your garden as I have.
You are a bit closer distance to the equator. I'm 2900k south of the equator ie 150k north of Brisbane.
You are 2000k north of the equator.
I get a good crop of DR so no reason why you shouldn't also.
And yes yours would be starting to flower now in mid-spring.

These plants and their alluring flowers never fail to amaze me.
As does the fruit itself with its highly scented almost intoxicating fragrance.
Interesting that the flower doesn't have any appreciable fragrance whereas the fruit is highly scented.

Here are two photos showing firstly the parts and second shows how to cup your hand into the flower and shake your hand to pollinate if needed. You simply move from flower to flower repeating that movement. Your hand holds much pollen which you carry along. The flowers are quite robust so can take quite a shaking.

However, I've recently learned that if the DF flower has a prominent stigma, there usually isn't any need for hand pollinating. Some varieties have the stigma much smaller with immature pollen on it. Those flowers often stay open well into the next day to allow the pollen to mature in the sun, then insects carry it to other flowers. That way the pollen on one flower doesn't pollinate the same flower.
Those varieties that are self-pollinating must have better genetics so don't need to wait for unrelated pollen.


DR flower parts.jpg pollinating DF by hand.jpg
 

rewired

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Thank you, ClissAT!

I think my main reason for a limited crop will be the native deer we have on the island. Most of the DF on our property is fairly low to the ground, and the deer apparently like them less ripe than humans.

We've scared a doe/fawn family a couple times when we go to the garden early in the morning. This is a picture of the fawn we took on our road (it wasn't sure which way to run at the moment). The fawn is about 60-70 cm tall and it's mother is about 1 m. According to the previous owner, any island fawn.jpg Night-blooming cereus3.jpg fruit less than about 1.5 m from the ground usually winds up with them.

I may see if I can get a short (8-10 m) roll of chicken wire that I can use as temporary fencing and will still be light enough to roll up and move around to different locations on the property.

The flowers are quickly extending from the base (this picture is less than 2 days after the 2nd picture). Do you have any idea about how many days it takes to go from bud to blooming flower?
 

rewired

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ClissAT

I went out to check on the DF this evening and they had bloomed!

Although bats are the primary pollinators, it looks like we also have some sort of beetle here that may do it as well (you can see a couple in one of the flowers in one of the photos).

Not wanting to disturb the beetles, I also gently pollinated with a paint brush, but I'll also do it by hand in the morning if the beetles have moved on.

Thanks again for your timely response!
I'm not sure about where you are, but it looks like it's 9-10 days here from bud formation to flowering. 20200531_233710.jpg 20200531_233020.jpg