Smallspine Pitaya

Smallspine Pitaya

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Echinocereus enneacanthus subsp. brevispinus (Strawberry Cactus)

Echinocereus enneacanthus subsp. brevispinus (Strawberry Cactus) is a cactus with cylindrical stems up to 3.3 feet (1 m) tall, that forms…

Smallspine Pitaya - garden

Origin and Habitat: New Mexico, Texas and Northeastern Mexico (Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí and Coahuila)
Altitude range: 600-1800 metres above sea level.
Habitat: Chihuahuan desert scrub, flats, rarely rocky slopes, mostly on alluvial substrates, among riparian vegetation. Occasionally in limestone rocks, in various substrates including open habitats.

Description: Echinocereus enneacanthus subs. brevispinus is a caespitose cactus forming dense or lax flat-topped or rounded clumps either loose decumbent, or erect with 15-100(or more) branches, usually branching before flowering. It differs from var. enneacanthus for it thinner, and slender stems, areoles more closely set on the ribs and shorter spines. Except for differences in stem size, the habits of both var. enneacanthus and var. brevispinus are similar. Echinocereus enneacanthus and Echinocereus enneacanthus subs. brevispinus intergrade, at least in Maravillas Canyon and in the lower canyons of the Rio Grande. It seems best at present to regard enneacanthus and brevispinus as conspecific.
Derivation of specific name: The root word brevi is after the Latin brevis, which means short.
Stems: Up to 5 cm diameter up to over 100 cm long, The stems of this species are soft bright green and often remain wrinkled. The stem surface is readily visible through the relatively short spines.
Ribs: (6-)8-9(-10 prominent warty.
Areoles: circular, 10-15(-24) mm apart.
Radial spines: Needle-like brownish, bulbous at the base (6-)8-9(-13) per areole, 10-20 mm long. More straight compared to typically curving central spines of var. enneacanthus.
Central spines: Short and divergent 1-2 (to 3) per areole, 10-45(55) mm long.
Flowers: Purple-red to pink in varying shades, and diurnal. Blooming in spring (April-May). Similar in size or larger , to 8 cm long and 10 or more cm in diameter, compared to those of var. enneacanthus. Throat darker red. Filaments greenish or pinkish. Anthers yellow. Stile to 3 cm long, 1.5-2 mm thick with 6-12 green stigma lobes.
Fruit: Round pale green becoming or dull brownish-red, or ultimately turn red 25-38 mm long, 25 mm in diameter, pulp pale to intense pink. The fruit are edible. After the spines are removed from the green-brown flesh of the fruit, it can be eaten and tastes similar to, hence the name straswsberry cactus.
Seeds: Black, ovoid, 1-1.4 mm long, and prominently tuberculate.
Chromosome number: 2n = 22.

Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Echinocereus enneacanthus group

  • Echinocereus enneacanthus" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/7930/Echinocereus_enneacanthus'> Echinocereus enneacanthus Engelm. in Wisliz. : (subsp. enneacanthus) has stems that are 5 to 25 cm thick Central spines long and divergent 1-5 per areole, 55-95 mm radial spines curved up to 4 cm long. Distribution: Big Bend region of the Trans-Pecos, ans west to El Paso.
  • Echinocereus enneacanthus subs. brevispinus" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/21835/Echinocereus_enneacanthus_subs._brevispinus'> Echinocereus enneacanthus subs. brevispinus (W.O.Moore) N.P.Taylor : has stems that are less than 5 inches thick Erect and straight central spines and radial spines that are les less than 1.5 cm long. Distribution: New Mexico, south Texas and northern Mexico.
  • Echinocereus enneacanthus f. cristata hort. : crested form.
  • Echinocereus sarissophorus" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/7934/Echinocereus_sarissophorus'> Echinocereus sarissophorus Britton & Rose : has a stout, stubby habit and very long, usually stiff, often bluish spines. Distribution: Coahuila and Chihuahua, Mexico.

Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Goettsch, B.K., Gómez-Hinostrosa, C., Heil, K., Terry, M. & Corral-Díaz, R. 2013. Echinocereus enneacanthus. In: IUCN 2013. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species." Version 2013.2. . Downloaded on 16 January 2014.
2) Forrest Shreve, Ira Loren Wiggins “Vegetation and Flora of the Sonoran Desert” Volume 1 Stanford University Press, 1964
3) Edward Anderson “The Cactus family” Timber Press, Incorporated, 2001
4) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey "The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass" Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug/2011
5) David R Hunt Nigel P Taylor Graham Charles International Cactaceae Systematics Group. "The New Cactus Lexicon" dh books, 2006
6) Urs Eggli, Leonard E. Newton: “Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names” Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg 2010
7) Ulises Guzmán, Salvador Arias, Patricia Dávila "Catálogo de cactáceas mexicanas." Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexiko-State 2003
8) Delena Tull “Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest: A Practical Guide” University of Texas Press, 1999
9) Brian Loflin, Shirley Loflin “Texas Cacti: A Field Guide” Texas A&M University Press, 26/Oct/2009
10) A. Michael Powell, James F. Weedin "Cacti of the Trans-Pecos & Adjacent Areas" Texas Tech University Press, 2004

Echinocereus enneacanthus subs. brevispinus Photo by: Peiffer Clement
Echinocereus enneacanthus subs. brevispinus Photo by: Cactus Art
Echinocereus enneacanthus subs. brevispinus Photo by: Cactus Art

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Cultivation and Propagation: Rot easily it is sensitive to overwatering (rot prone) needs a very good drainage to avoid rotting, Keep drier and cool in winter. Need full sun. Very cold resistant It can withstand freezing temperatures but not too much water (resistant to approx -12C or less for short periods of time)
Propagation: Cuttings that are left out to callus off before planting. Also can be grown from seeds.

Although attractive, both Vinca major and Vinca minor may be invasive in some regions where they are introduced species because the rapid spreading chokes out native plant species and alters habitats much like some species of ivy plants.

Echinocereus enneacanthus is a cactus with cylindrical stems, forming dense or lax clumps either loose decumbent or erect, with 20 to 100 branches, usually branching before flowering.

It is also called Strawberry Cactus, Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus, Green Strawberry, Green Strawberry Hedgehog, Banana Cactus, Alicoche Banana Cactus, Pitaya, Smallspine Pitaya, Purple Pitaya, Prostrate Hedgehog, Prostrate Hedgehog Cactus, Cob Cactus

Thornless Red Dragon Fruit Pitaya Antioxidant Backyard Plant to Grow

I first started growing dragon fruit (Pitaya) in 2010 and 8 years on I'm so glad I decided to plant such a weird but stunning cactus vine in our food garden.

It was only just a few years after (and to my amazement) when our vines started producing fruit and plenty of them! The subsequent article I wrote on "Dragon Fruit (Pitaya) a How-to Guide for Growing" has become one of my most read articles and is at the top of Google search for this subject – hopefully, it remains there for many years to come…

But that article was mainly based on the yellow thorny variety, which is a wonderful fruit, vigorous vine, and an all-around top producer except for one "prickly" issue – it's covered in spikes.

In contrast, the red-fleshed dragon fruit (pitaya) doesn't have any thorns on the fruit so it makes for easy handling.

I picked up our first plant from a local nursery and now have several new plants growing from cuttings. Pitaya grows easily from cuttings and not only that the vine tends to grow and produce fruit faster than plants grown from seed.

Honestly, I wouldn't bother growing any dragon fruit from seed, even though it's easy to do, growing from cuttings is way more productive and faster!

This red-fleshed variety is surprisingly good and I say this because I have tried a few red varieties before (ones that I had purchased from the supermarket) and they weren't very tasty.

In fact, they were so bland that I had reservations growing this type of dragon fruit at all but obviously, I'm glad I eventually did.

I'm not sure why my experiences with supermarket pitaya fruit have been so negative although I have an inkling that it's a similar issue with most supermarket fruits and that's picked too early (for logistical reasons) or the fruit is grown for transportation/storage qualities rather than taste. I don't know…

Anyway, this fruit on this vine can get HUGE weighing up to 1 kg and grow twice the size of a large orange.

Red dragon fruit compared to large Washington Navel orange (image above)

Eating one of these red centered weird looking things is a sheer delight – our homegrown fruits are sweet without being overly sugary and it tastes unique but pleasant perhaps a bit like a watermelon apple cross only with small kiwi fruit seeds throughout the flesh. At the end of the day, the flavour of dragon fruits, in general, is hard to describe except to say we find them delicious.

Compared to the thorny yellow variety this red one is not quite as sweet, however, there is a massive difference in size so I kind of understand how this sized pitaya might have the flavour a little watered down.

The red carotenoid in this variety of dragon fruit is an organic compound called lycopene which has solid scientific backing to suggest it may help prevent some cancers. Besides the antioxidants, there are many more impressive health benefits associated with eating dragon fruit just have a Google around and you'll see what I mean.

Fruit development is predominantly during autumn/winter, although it can fruit all year round in the subtropics, and the fruit growth/ripens quickly in just several weeks. Unlike the yellow variety, this red variety doesn't hold on the plant very well at all and will likely split or rot soon after ripening so harvesting the fruit on time is important.

Overall, I definitely recommend giving this plant a go because everything is stunning about it from the unusual vine, the wonderful nighttime flowers, to the tasty huge red fruit.

I'll be knocking up several more growing posts/trellises so we can grow more of this antioxidant-rich super fruit.

Here's one of my videos on growing dragon fruit – it's on the yellow variety but it still might interest you.

How to Grow and Prune a Pitahaya

Related Articles

In the United States, pitahaya (Hylocereus undatus) usually means the fruit of a cactus native to Central and South America and sold as dragon fruit. Definitions can vary. In Mexico, pitahaya can mean any type of edible cactus fruit from a variety of cactus species. In Central and South America, all cactus fruits are pitaya. Pitahayas from H. undatus constitute a new international fruit crop, cultivated in Indonesia, Australia, Israel, Mexico, South and Central America and the United States. You can choose from a number of pitahaya varieties and hybrids. The delicious flesh is white to crimson, while the rind is yellow to red. Plants are easy to propagate from cuttings or from seed and are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. You can also grow them in a greenhouse or as a container plant.

Watch the video: how to make a healthy smoothie at home and yummy