Peruvian Apple Cactus and Its Night Blooming Flowers
Saguaro Cactus in Bloom
A Night Blooming Cactus
Arriving at work shortly after sunrise on a recent spring morning my wife noticed a beautiful white flower on one of the cacti in the gardens on the grounds where she works.
Unlike many other species of cacti, such as the majestic saguaro or the bush-like prickly pear, both of which produce flowers that bloom for days, this cactus only blooms just before dawn or just before sunset and the flower withers and dies within a few short hours.
The cactus is commonly referred to as a Peruvian Apple Cactus or simply Apple Cactus. It is also unofficially known as Cereus Peruvianus. However, Cereus Peruvianus does not appear to be a recognized separate species.
Prickly Pear Cactus in Bloom
Instead, the Cereus Peruvianus name is frequently applied to the Cereus Hildmannianus and Cereus Repandus species of cacti.
The Cereus Hildmannianus and Cereus Repandus are both officially recognized species of cactus as well as being closely related to each other.
The fact that the Cereus Peruvianus name is unofficial has not stopped people from referring to a number of closely related cacti as Peruvian Apple Cactus.
Basically, Peruvian Apple Cactus is the name that has been commonly used to describea number of similar hybrid cacti that have resulted from cross breeding by gardeners as the cactus has made its way to gardens around the world from its origins in Brazil and Uruguay.
Cereus Peruvianus In Bloom
The Flowers of this Cactus are Spectacular
As you can see by the pictures, the flowers of the Peruvian Apple Cactus, despite their short life, are spectacular.
These beautiful flowers are one of the main reasons this type of cactus is prized by gardners world-wide.
While the Peruvian Apple Cactus in my wife’s pictures appears to be less than twelve inches high, the cactus itself can grow to heights of as much as ten meters (33 feet). This makes it a good plant for small gardens, in pots on a patio or large areas as a small tree or shrub.
The potentially large size when left to grow probably accounts for it being referred to as a Hedge Cactus and Giant Club Cactus in parts of northern South America and the Caribbean islands.
Reproduction Opportunities are Limited
Just as in the tale of the short lived Atlas Moth in a previous Hub on butterflies, one has to wonder how certain species can continue to survive and reproduce given their limited reproduction capabilities.
In the case of the Atlas Moth his lifespan is a mere one to five days.
During daylight he rests leaving only the noctournal hours of his short life attempting to find a female to mate with before dying.
While the life of the Peruvian Apple Cactus lasts many years its reproduction opportunities are limited to the few short hours during early morning or early evening when it blooms.
The larger Peruvian Apple Cacti can produce multiple flowers with some blooming at different times.
However, for the single Peruvian Apple Cactus in the accompanying pictures the four hour life of that one flower was probably its only chance at reproduction this year.
Peruvian Apple is Similar to Dragon Fruit
Successful Pollination Produces a Tasty Fruit
When reproduction is successful, the cactus will produce an oval shaped fruit.
The fruit is about the size of a small apple with a skin color that varies from a violet red to orange or yellow.
The fruit can be safely picked from the cactus as there are no thornes or spines on the fruit to make harvesting painful.
The fruit is known by various names including pitaya in northern South America, Peruvian Apple or Cactus Apple in other areas and marketed in Europe as Koubo fruit by Israeli commercial growers.
Regardless of what it is called, the fruit and its small seeds are edible. Thehe longer the fruit is allowed to ripen the sweeter tasting it becomes.
When cut open the flesh is white with numerous tiny black seeds much like those found in dragon fruit which it is similar to and is often confused with the fruit of the Peruvian Apple Cactus.
Commercial Possibilities for Fruit of Peruvian Apple Cactus
Despite the short life of its flowers, there is no need to worry about the propagation of new Peruvian Apple Cactus plants as, not only are gardeners and commercial nurseries around the world cultivating it as a popular garden plant but its fruit is also being developed as a new cash crop for farmers.
A 2002 article on the BBC News Site entitled Cactus Farmers Defy the Desert by online correspondent Alex Kirby describes how Israeli scientists, responding to increasing water shortages for irrigating desert land are turning to fruit bearing cacti as an alternative to traditional orchards that require large amounts of water.
Cactus plants like the Peruvian Apple Cactus not only thrive in the hot, dry desert conditions but also have potential as a commercial agricultural crop.
So far the Peruvian Apple Cactus has been a successful orchard crop in that the plant is capable of producing fruit all year round with hand pollination aiding honey bees in pollinating the short lived flowers.
Production has reached the point where the fruit of the Peruvian Apple Cactus has become an export crop being shipped to neighboring Europe where it is marketed as Koubo fruit.
Will Have to Wait to Taste the Fruit of the Peruvian Apple Cactus
When visiting Hawaii a couple of years ago we purchased some Dragon Fruit at a roadside fruit stand on the Island of Hawaii.
Dragon fruit is a close cousin to Peruvian Apple Cactus fruit or Pitaya as it is known in South America and looks and suposedly tastes similar to Dragon Fruit.
However, I haven't seen either Dragn Fruit or Peruvian Apple Cactus fruit on sale in any of the local grocery stores in Tucson where I live.
So, unless the cactus that sprouted the flower that my wife took pictures of produces a cactus apple that my wife is able to pick I will have to wait to taste a Peruvian Cactus Apple.