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…..


64 thoughts on “Saguaro Cactus

  1. Pingback: A Year of Highs and Lows | Live Laugh RV

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  3. Thank you so much for the blog it’s wonderful very a nice photos done, please stop on my blog about solo sailing around the world. Soon I am leaving solo sailing around the world in a San Juan 24-foot sailboat from the west coast of the United states in May of 2013

  4. Thanks for reading my post The Sun Also Rises…Over Borrego on my travlynshoes blog.
    I love your blog. Signed up to follow it. My younger years were spent in Fort Collins. It’s a great state, isn’t it. Did it ever warm up in Arizona?

    • It was a rather cool winter in AZ. We’re back in So. Co and its definitely cold here. Wish we were back in AZ. Berrego is on the schedule for next winter. Look forward to following you as well.

  5. Great share! Thank you, such lovely pics. I thought I’d share something about Saguaro, in specific, those with twisted or curled arms. Wonder why? FROSTBITE.

    • Some of the saguaros are quite entertaining. I still have more to write about these characters…..writers block/brain freeze right now!

    • It was really cool to be in a snowstorm in the desert….very rare. And yes, nice that it was gone the next day. We have family in IL too. Do not miss those midwest winters!

  6. I LOVE Saguaro NP. So envious that you got to see Saguaro in snow. I’ve always wanted to experience that. Great post and I’ve added some more places to my “to see” list. Thanks! 🙂

  7. Such lovely images, Ingrid. The desert does have its very unique beauty, but I really missed the sea during the 14 years we lived in Utah. I’m enjoying my doses of desert right here where I’m within easy reach of rolling waves.

    • Yes I can appreciate your love of the ocean. Your photos have me wanting to point the RV in your direction. Alas, we have each other to share our images until travels take us in the direction. For you, after 14 years, you’ve probably had your fill of desert dwelling. For me……Oregon beckons!

      • I might visit the desert again someday, but definitely don’t want to live too far from the ocean ever again. I suspect I’ll meet up with some of the bloggy RV folks one of these days. Should be fun…. I think Nina will be hosting the Blanco Lighthouse this summer, but LuAnn apparently has plans to head home. So has Oregon worked into your plans yet, or do you not plan that far ahead?

  8. Ingrid…I loved your pictures…especially the first of the sunset and the last of the snow…the two different views of the Tucson desert…thanks for sharing.

    • Snow in Tucson? Who woulda thought? It was quite beautiful and thankfully gone the next day. Can’t wait to post more photos…..just need a little more internet juice….haha!

  9. This post got me all fuzzy inside…sitting here in IL getting ready for our full time adventure, you just reminded me of my love for the desert! I’m all #happyheart now! Ps…sweet pics!

    • The snow in Tucson had me running around like a little kid. Sure wouldn’t a done that in IL. Ah… on the road isn’t always rosie, but its always an adventure.

    • Thank you Jerry, coming from you that is quite the compliment. I’m assuming you and Kim will head to Yellowstone through Utah instead of CO. However, if you do head through CO be sure and let us know. Sorry we missed each other in Phx. Watch out for the snowstorms….we seem to be catching them!

  10. My kinda blog…saguaro cactus! I can’t believe how much I miss seeing them. Even my husband commented as we hiked Red Rock Canyon outside Vegas that he missed them and how much they add to the landscape. I think one day I would like to have a home in Tucson and fill my yard with all types of cactus especially saguaro.

    When I think about what causes the crested saguaro, I am intrigued by the fact that most crests are identical…ummm, why is that!?

    Boy, we left AZ just in time to miss the snow. It was much nicer just looking at everyone’s pictures.

    Three of the bloggers I follow are in Gilbert Ray right now! What a coincidence!

    The Visitor’s Center in downtown had buy one get one free booklets for almost all the tourist places. The booklet is $18 but pays for itself with a visit or two. It includes the Desert Museum, Titan Missile Site, Pima Air and Space Center, etc. It is well worth it if you are seeing many of the sites.

    Enjoy Tucson!

    • Its amazing how many bloggers were rolling in and out of Gilbert Ray. We left Saturday to return to CO. Hunkered down in Elephant Butte NM for another snowstorm right now. We definitely were not ready to leave Tucson or Arizona for that matter. Oh, those darn responsiblities….wish I was heading to Zion instead. Thanks for all the info….next winter for sure!

  11. Lovely photos Ingrid and great information on these stately giants. Enjoy the Sonoran Desert Museum. We have loved it each time we have gone. Highly recommend the Falcons in Flight program. 🙂

    • I still have more info on these desert beauties. Our internet has been a challenge uploading photos. The museum was great. Raptors in flight was cool. The Hummingbirds and Javelinas made it for us. Definitely was not ready to leave AZ. Returning to CO with the same enthusiasm you and Terry have Re: returning to OH. Can’t wait to hear what new camera you decide on!

  12. Some really nice photos! We did not get snow in Picacho Peak SP. We too grew up in IL and now call Colorado home – So, we would have enjoyed the snow. News from CO – Blizzard conditions today! We are now at Gilbert Ray and visited the Desert Museum yesterday. Also went to Mission San Xavier del Bac which we really enjoyed.

    • Small world. We left Gilbert Ray Saturday. Returning to CO responsiblities…. hunkered down in Elephant Butte NM waiting out another snowstorm 😦 We really enjoyed the Museum and missed the Mission unfortunately. What part of CO do you call home?

  13. We have three saguaros on our new (to us) Arizona property. I sure hope they bloom this year! We’re back in Canada right now, and were very surprised to hear about the snow in Tucson. I sure wish we had been camping down there and experienced it.

    • It was a beautiful sight….this coming from someone from Colorado. Such a rare and unique treat to see snow on the cacti. Where in AZ is your home? Our son lives in Phoenix which is why Phx is a regular stop for us. I’d love for sons property to have a saguaro…..what a treat to have 3.

      • We’re north of Fountain Hills. We have a baby saguaro that is only about 2 feet high. The other two are big enough to have quite a few arms, but one of them isn’t very healthy looking – though it bloomed last year.

  14. Cristate forms fascinate me! I have a few crested cacti in my ranchero garden so have done some reading on the subject; as you noted, scientists can’t agree why it happens. So strange.

    Snow in Tuscon ! Incredibly rare? What a wonderful thing to witness. 🙂

    You really are having an experience of a lifetime! Like Darla said in the comment above this one, thank you for taking me along!!

    • Yes the snow in Tucson was a treat. Everything about the saguaro fasinated me. I hope to post more once I have better internet service. In your garden….wow. How did you come by a crested cacit? Thanks for tagging along….I’ll try and keep you entertained 🙂

    • I so agree…..on our hikes I would refer to certain saguaros with a name. Some felt friendly and others felt evil, like a mean character out of scooby doo… Obviously living in CO we’re accustomed to snow, but the snowstorm in Tucson with the saguaros top with snow was unbelievably special.

  15. Wow! Beautiful and informative. Thanks for taking me on your trips! I have driven past these strangely beautiful characters on our way to CA, but never gave them too much thought except, “don’t touch the pretty cactus.” I like you thought they were a creation from a cartoonist’s mind.
    The snow shots were awesome and a sight many of us will never see. I’m so glad you shared your photos, knowledge and perspective of the AZ desert!
    Why is the big one’s arms in the photo with the cyclist twisting around the cactus? Is it like most plants and they are growing toward the sun? But I would think the sun would be bright all around seeing how there isn’t anything large blocking its exposure???? Just wondering.
    Have a great Sunday!

    • The saguaro cactus is so interesting. I’m not sure why they grow in all the directions they do. It was actually a challenge to find the tradional three armed cactus that we’re all familar with because most don’t grow that way. The more I hung around these guys, the more personaltiy they seem to have to me….I’d see characters. More photos and info forth coming!

  16. This is just a magnificent share… wonderful photos of the cacti.. one even looks as though it’s giving us the “bird”… but the snow photos are beyond words … what a beautiful capture .. to be there when it happens and to capture the picture perfect vision of beauty in the semi desert… marvelous… oh this is a great post….

    • Can you believe with all the time we spent at Cave Creek, we never saw Michellin Man? I’m sure we hiked past him though. I DID see my Javvy’s at the museum. Not the greatest shots, but I’m happy. We also loved the Hummingbird building. Lots to tell when I have better internet 🙂

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