A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Sunday, February 5, 2023



Saguaro cactus grow in the Sonoran Desest of Arizona and down into the Mexican state of Sonora.  They can grow over forty feet tall and live an excess of 150 years.  The tallest ever found was 78 feet tall, being a single spire with no arms.  A windstorm toppled it in 1986.  The largest was at 45 feet tall but had a girth of over ten feet and was estimated to be over 200 years old.  They will grow their arms after 75 to 100 years of age.  One specimen had 78 arms.  Just imagine how old this fellow is.  Older than all of us and he looks pretty well for his age.  Saguaro grow from seed and will only grow a quarter of an inch in the first two years.  It takes twenty to fifty years to reach three feet in height.  They have the ability to store large quantities of water and expand greatly in doing so weighing anywheres from 3200 to 4800 pounds fully hydrated.

What they look like at the very top.

The barbless spines are extremely sharp and able to penetrate even bone.

The skeleton of a saguaro is comprised of ribs. (Internet photo)

(internet photo)

Gila Woodpeckers make holes in the cactus for their nest.

(Internet photo)

When the saguaro dies and decays they leave behind what is known as a “saguaro boot” the hardened nest cavity created by the woodpecker.  The bottom is between my boots and the opening to the left.  I only recently learned while back at WHY that it is illegal to collect these.  I was unable to find out why.

Flowers appear in late April through to June opening up at sunset and closing the following day.  
Besides bees and birds pollinating them so do bats.

(The rest are internet photos)

The fruit produces around 2000 seeds.  They will germinate easily but take a year to be ready to do so.  As such only 1% are able to germinate since the seeds are eaten by birds and small animals.

Looks tasty.  
Native Americans harvest the fruit using long poles to knock them loose.
They make bread from the ground seeds.

The driver escaped injury.
Said it was windblown snapped off and just bad timing on the driver’s part.

You don’t want one to fall on you.


Barbara Rogers said...

Now I feel pretty young compared to those old cactus giants. They have a story I never knew.

Kathe said...

Wow! Soooooo interesting! Hard to believe that person walked away from that accident. Must have been by inches. You're smart to wear boots out there. Thanks for a great post!

Ellen D. said...

That's so interesting, John. I am always amazed how animals can live in those without hurting themselves!

Damselfly said...

The Arizona Native Plant Act lists protected native plants and prohibits the destruction, mutilation or removal of any protected plant (living or dead plants). Two of the plants you've shared with us are listed & protected under the Act: blue palo verde and saguaro cactus.
The saguaro cactus is considered a keystone species in AZ, and positively impacts hundreds of other species (animal & plant) from the seedling stage through death with numerous animals inhabiting the boot.
Pretty darned cool, eh?
Thanks again for sharing!

Debby said...

So very cool. I went off and had a read about saguaro boots. So fascinating, these desert plants and animals and all their adaptations. Thanks!