Saguaro Cactus

I find the Saguaro Cactus intriguing.   As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I thought this three armed cactus was a fabrication of cartoonists.  I remember watching cartoons like the Road Runner, Huckleberry Hound, and of course Bugs Bunny.  The background contained scenes of Red Rock, Cactus, and the ever abundant tumbleweed…..all foreign to a young gal growing up in Illinois among cornfields.Saguaro Cactus

Each saguaro cactus is unique and appears to have a personality of its own.  It took me weeks of living amongst these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly…. pronounced:  se’warou.

saguaro cactus
note the bicyclist on the trail between the saguaros – sense of scale

The saguaro is a large, tree-sized cactus which can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters).  It is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, some parts of southern California and northern Mexico.  Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years.   It can take 50 to 70 years for a saguaro to develop a side arm.  Arms are grown to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity…..more apices lead to more flowers and fruit.saguaro flower

Saguaros are very slow growing and may only grow an inch or two its first eight years.  The growth rate is determined by climate, precipitation, and location.  Whenever it rains, saguaros soak up the rainwater and the cactus will visibly expand.  This might explain why the desert feels so alive after a rainfall.  The cacti are doing a happy dance!

Yeah…let’s party!

saguaroAt Cave Creek Regional Park, we hiked the Quartz Trail.  As we came up over a hill, I stopped in awe.  It was like a forest of saguaros.  I use the term ‘like’ not as a valley girl but because I’m not sure if it’s correct to use the words forest and saguaro together.  All I can say….. I’d watched one too many Scooby Doo cartoons as a kid…..zombie  saguaro apocalypse.  This army of cacti were watching us….making sure we stayed on the trail….each with its own personality; some cute, some not, some look like proud soldiers, some like a cartoon character, and others look tired, twisted, and weathered, but no two identical.saguaro

AND then there is the rare crested saguaro.  Why are some crested?  Saguaros rarely grow symmetrically and often grow in odd or mis-shapen forms.  The growing tip on rare occasion produces a fan like form which is referred to as crested or cristate.  Biologists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form.  Some thoughts; genetic mutation, lightning strike, freeze damage.  Fascinating to say the least for whatever reason!

What are the holes in the saguaro?  Stay tuned…..

This was going to be the end of the post……..BUT……..

I have more to share……….  We left Phoenix Tuesday and headed south to Tucson.  We settled into a nice campsite at Gilbert Ray Campground, just south of Saguaro National Park.  How fitting to do a post about saguaro cactus from Saguaro National Park!  We knew a storm was coming and we were prepared with an RV full of food and fuel.  Wednesday around noon, just as predicted, the snow started falling.  SNOW in TUCSON???Gilbert Ray Campground

Oh, what a sight to behold.  The flakes were large and plentiful.  Al and I sat in our cozy warm RV drinking some nice hot tea and watched the scenery unfold.  This is rare for the area.  The Accenture Golf Tournment was put on hold…..poor Tiger.Gilbert Ray CampgroundThere were times I could not help myself……I’d put on my winter boots and winter coat and run around taking photos.  Sure wish I had packed my snow pants….I could have stayed out longer.  Oh well, this Colorado gal knows how to improvize…..two pairs of knit pants kept me warm and kind of dry.Tucson

The next day, the snowstorm was but a mere memory.  The cacti were swollen and happy from all the moisture.  With clear skies and warm temps returning, we were off to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum…..