Icons of the west, the saguaro cactus reminds me of people. And while visiting Saguaro National Park I met a few prickly characters.
The grow in all shapes and sizes.
The Sonoran Desert is the only place where the saguaro cactus grows naturally.
If a saguaro seedling is to survive, it needs the protection of a “nurse plant”, (or in this case rock) which provides protection from the sun and freezing temperatures.
After its first year, the seedlings highly variable growth is controlled by the amount of water in the soil.
Saguaro’s flowers open at night during May and June and are pollinated by nectar feeding bats, but not until they are 35-40 years old when they may stand up to six feet tall.
The first arm on a saguaro usually appears when the plant is 65-75 years old.
Saguaro branches always grow upward but frost or snow can damage the base of a limb allowing the weight of the branch to pull it down.
Yet if the branch survives, the growing tip will turn upward again.
They normally live for 150-200 years and can grow to 50 feet tall. Death may come by freezing, lightning, wind, old age, vandalism or human development.
When a saguaro dies, the woody ribs that supported it in life become visible as the softer plant tissue dries up and crumbles away.
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