"Dragon fruit", also known as Pitaya or Strawberry Pear, are so named because the fruit has scales much like a dragon does, and since it originated in Asia, it's a logical association.
It is a climbing cactus with a distinctive three-lobed cross-section, and grows to between one and three metres high with lots of branching. It is usually grown from cuttings - simply remove a section, allow the end to dry for a couple of days to heal the wound and prevent rotting, then plant it up in some free-draining coarse potting mix. It likes lots of water (but not being waterlogged, it is a cactus) and lots of nitrogen fertiliser.
There are basically three types which produce red-skinned white-fleshed fruits, red-skinned and red-fleshed fruit and yellow-skinned white-fleshed fruits. My Dragon Fruit is the first type, Hylocereus undatus. I've had it for around 18 months (I bought my cutting from Daley's) and has formed flower buds probably four of five times in that period, but they have all either dropped off, or been knocked off by rambunctious kids or animals! It's not uncommon for flowers to fall off immature vines however, so I wasn't too worried by it.
They also only flower at night, and I've never managed to catch it before.
So when my vine formed another bud like this one recently, I was keeping an eye on it to see if it did anything interesting. It started about the size of the photo below (about 10cm or 4 inches long) and stayed that way for a week or so,
Then it suddenly and rapidly elongated a couple of days ago to about a foot in length:
Then late yesterday afternoon I noticed that the flower bud looked about ready to burst open, so I excitedly kept an eye on it as the sun set to see if it did anything.
Well, did it what! As the sun set, it slowly opened up into this gorgeous - giant! - white scented flower around 40cm wide in the middle. The whole flower was probably two feet across from tip to tip.
The flowers are usually pollinated by moths and bats in their native regions, so I left our outside floodlight on for a while after dark, hoping to attract some moths big enough to do the flower justice! Notice how the male stamens form a "landing pad" for the insects? Cool, huh?
I've heard from another local that hand pollination with a small paintbrush is best as insects are unreliable this far south of the tropics, but I left mine to nature's devices. If this one is not pollinated I might hand pollinate in future. Fruit is ready to harvest 30-35 days after pollination so I should find out pretty quickly if this one was pollinated - fruit forms at the base of the bud as the spent flower browns and drops off.
So, I've got all my fingers and toes crossed that I might get one of these amazing fruit next month. Pretty amazing flower by itself though, yes?