These fruits are commonly known in English as "dragon fruit", reflecting its vernacular Asian names. These include the Malay buah naga (lit. dragon fruit), the Khmer sror kaa neak (dragon scale), the Thai kaeo mangkon (Thai: แก้วมังกร) (dragon crystal), the Laomaak manggohn (Lao: ຫມາກມັງກອນ), the Vietnamese thanh long (green dragon), and the Chinese huǒ lóng guǒ (fire dragon fruit) or lóng zhū guǒ (dragon pearl fruit). Other vernacular names are strawberry pear or nanettika fruit.
The name 'pitahaya' or 'pitaya' is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, derived from the Spanish rendition of the Haitian
Pitahaya-producing cacti of the genus Hylocereus are originally native to Mexico, and they were also transplanted to Central America and to other parts of the world. Currently, they are also cultivated in East Asian and Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia and more recently Bangladesh. They are also found in Okinawa, Hawaii, Israel, northern Australia, southern China and in Cyprus.
The fruit was probably introduced by Europeans who brought it from the New World. In the case of Taiwan, the fruit was brought in by the Dutch.
Hylocereus blooms only at night; the large white fragrant flowers of the typical cactus flower shape are among those called "moonflower" or "Queen of the Night". Sweet pitahayas have a creamy pulp and a delicate aroma. It is also grown as an Ornamental plant, used in gardens as a flowering vine and a house plant indoors.