Dragon fruit are native to Central and South America and grown commercially in Israel, Thailand, Vietnam and Australia. In Australia, both the white-fleshed dragon fruit (H. undatus) and red-fleshed dragon fruit (H. polyrhizus) are grown commercially. Smaller amounts of the Selenicereus sp, a smaller spiny yellow skinned fruit with sweet white flesh is grown and also sold under the common name dragon fruit. Dragon fruit produced in Australia is sold on the domestic market and no other country has access to the Australian market for biosecurity reasons. The red-fleshed dragon fruit has a history of earning higher prices.
Dragon fruit are long day plants which flower and fruit during the summer months. The flowers open at night and pollination generally occurs in the early morning with the flower wilting by mid-morning.
There are around 40,000 dragon fruit trees in Australia and production is estimated at around 740 tonnes, with a gross value of AU$2.2 million. There are a number of established dragon fruit farms in northern New South Wales and Queensland that offer a tourist experience, including tours and tastings.
Dragon fruit was introduced into Australia in the 1970s but is regarded as a developing industry, and its interests are represented by the Rare Fruits Association and the Sub-tropical Fruit Club of Queensland.
Facts and figures
- Dragon fruit, pitaya or pitahaya are all common names used in Australia for the edible fruit bearing, climbing cacti originally native to Mexico, central and South America
- The fruit has a bright red or yellow skin, and either a white or red flesh with tiny black seeds
- The high levels of the antioxidant phytoalbumin in dragon fruit means it is considered a ‘super food’ in some countries
- Australian dragon fruit production is estimated at 740 tonnes with a gross value of AU$2.2 million
- Unlike many exotic tropical fruits, dragon fruit has a relatively long shelf life if stored correctly
There are around 40,000 dragon fruit plants in Australia and nearly 70% of these are in the Northern Territory, with most of the remainder in Queensland and northern New South Wales. Based on these numbers and average yields, Australian production of dragon fruit is estimated at around 740 tonnes, with a gross value of AU$2.2 million.