More on the Saguaro

A week ago we left Tucson and took a five-hour drive to Elephant Butte State Park in New Mexico.  We stayed two nights then headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico for another two night stay.  We are now resting in Southern Colorado.  Although its sunny, its cold, and I long to be back among my beloved saguaro cacti.Saguaro

Mind you, our four-month trip meandering around Arizona was abundant with inclement and unusual weather.  The rare snowstorm in Tucson was stunning.  This Colorado gal is used to snow, but seeing the saguaro and the desert topped with snow was a special sight to behold.Tucson Tucson

I would have enjoyed it even more if I had brought the proper attire along.  Who would have thought I could have used my snow pants in Tucson, Arizona?

Gilbert Ray Campground

Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson

Gilbert Ray Campground

Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson,  Arizona

I’ve talked before how the desert appears to come alive after a rainfall.  This was very true the day after the snowstorm.  During a heavy rain, or in this case….snow, a saguaro cactus will absorb as much water as its root system allows.  To accommodate a potentially large influx of water, the pleats of a saguaro expand like an accordion.  I was fascinated with the plump texture of the saguaro after the snowfall.  You can literally see the water trapped below the skin’s surface.


The pleats are plump with moisture

Because the majority of a saguaro is made up of water, an adult plant may weigh as much as six tons or more.  This tremendous weight is supported by a circular skeleton of inter-connected, woody ribs.  The number of ribs inside the plant correspond to the number of pleats on the outside of the plant.


the skeleton of a saguaro

Saguaro cacti are host to a great variety of animals.  The gilded flicker and Gila woodpecker excavate nest cavities inside the saguaro’s pulpy flesh.


Gila Woodpecker


nest cavity

Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Large birds like hawks also use the saguaro for nesting and hunting platforms.  Their stick nests are constructed among the arms of a large saguaro.  In mid summer, the saguaro cacti provides a source of food for animals with its ripening fruit.  Jackrabbits, Javelinas, Mule Deer and other animals will eat the saguaro’s flesh during dry summer months, providing these animals with a water source.

Desert Museum

A sleeping Javelina – Desert Museum

No trip to Tucson would be complete without a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  This 21 acre parcel of Sonoran Desert is a fusion of; zoo, garden, museum, and aquarium.  Visitors will walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the remarkable ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert region.

Desert Museum

Owl – Raptors in Flight show at the Desert Museum

The “Raptor Free Flight” was highly recommended by LuAnn of Paint Your Landscape and it did not disappoint.  Birds soar completely untethered and fly close overhead…. what a unique experience

Desert Museum

Falcon in flight

Desert Museum


The Hummingbird Aviary alone was worth admission.  A volunteer, otherwise known as a Docent, was passionate about these little beauties.  She pointed out the tiny nests and shared details on their habitat.  Al had one flutter within inches of his face.  It was tough pulling ourselves away.

Desert Museum

Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum

We spent almost three hours strolling the Desert Museum and would definitely return.  Our time in Tucson was way too short and Al and I promise each other a longer stay next winter.Tucson


46 thoughts on “More on the Saguaro

  1. Pingback: Curiosity Piqued | Live Laugh RV

    • Thank you….appreciate the compliment. All the photos are mine with the rare exception when I’m in the photo then it’s hubby behind the camera with my direction of course πŸ™‚

  2. Pingback: Plants that look nice in pots in desert (Gardening tips) | familyrecipebooks

  3. Stunning beauty, captivating photography! The cactus hugging and the sleeping Javelina were my favorite. Oh, then there was the nest cavity. And the falcon. And the owl. All of them are just gorgeous πŸ™‚

    • Wow, thank you….what a nice comment. Four months meandering around the southwest was tons of fun, but its great to be back in Colorado πŸ™‚

  4. Fabulous photos Ingrid. I loved the one of you hugging the big guy but my all time favorites were the birds and the javelina. I’ve gotta get me one of those cameras. Wonderful! πŸ™‚

  5. Denfinitely hang up a couple Hummingbird feeders at home.. We get them here in Illinois starting in May…and lasting until October…I make my own food and they love it…That museum sounds like a “must see”…and I also loved the look of the campground you stayed at…We are grumbling here , as there is another snow storm predicted Tuesday…big whoop.

    • We had a hummingbird feeder at our last home and I bought one for the RV. The weather just never improved enough to put out…..driving winds 😦 The museum is definitely worth visiting. Perhaps next winter you’ll be able to escape. Stay warm!

  6. This was a spectacular photo essay! It made me feel like I was right there with you. I think I just learned more about cactus than I’ve known my entire life.
    The photo at the end looks like the saguaro is waving good bye! Lol!

    • Why thank you, Lisa. There will be a quiz in your in box….lol. So many of those saguaros look like various characters and seem to each have a unique personality. It was fun!

  7. I love the saguaro also but draw short of hugging them. The Desert Museum is one of my favorite places on earth and I am looking forward to sharing it with Pete since I was alone the day I went. I’m hoping to avoid any snow thought – brrr.

    • Al just loved the hummingbird building as did I. We will definitely return and spend a longer day there when its hopefully warmer. No hugging a saguaro, but why? It only hurts alittle πŸ™‚

  8. We make it a point to visit the Desert Museum every time we are in Tucson. Camping at GR makes it very convenient. We enjoyed your photos. πŸ™‚

    • What….no cactus hugging? Where’s your sense of adventure….lol. I’ll admit as I was ‘pretending’ to hug that cactus my one arm got closer than intended….ouch!

  9. We are in Tucson now – heading to Catalina SP today. We too loved the Desert Museum – thanks for all the great pictures. Say hi to Colorado for us. We will be back in early May.

    • You’ve got the right idea by returning in May. I would have loved to see the desert in bloom… year. Enjoy some great hiking!

  10. I guess you got to see your Javelina after all… sort of. πŸ˜‰ I love hummingbirds. Sounds like a fun experience. Welcome back to the winter!

    • The hummingbird display at the musuem was amazing as they’d go wizzing by our faces by inches. I think I’ll be hanging up a feeder here and see if any are around. The Javelinas were rather lazy that day, but then they are a night time animal. It’s nice to be back in CO πŸ™‚

  11. love the pictures – I always thought the Saguaro cacti were made up by the cartoonists, then I grew up and I realized they are real and really cool. I love to read your posts because you are getting to enjoy an adventure out west… I’ll be there someday, thanks for the inspiration to follow your dreams. Stay warm!

  12. You’re very courageous, hugging cactus! Thanks for a great rekindling of memory, I visited the museum many years ago and I’m warmed anew.

    • Well, as I was ‘pretending’ to hug that saguaro, I did manage to get a little too close….ouch! Amazing and interesting plants to say the least.

  13. I love the snow on the desert. That is neat. And that Gila Woodpecker is gorgeous. Love how you captured the plumpness of the saguaro holding extra water.

    • Watching it snow in the desert was pretty cool. I wish I had taken more photos. It was interesting to see the saguaro swell with moisture….even felt spongy, but ouch!

  14. I know those cacti are magnificent sights to behold, but I hope you get too attached to it. πŸ˜€ You are great in capturing those birds. Amazing,awesome pics! I am no good when it comes to sighting birds. That bird in flight, that beautiful owl, WOW!

    • I had soooo much trouble shooting the “raptors in flight” birds. I am glad I managed to capture the owl and falcon. In posing for one of those pics, I did get too close. Getting too close to those cactus…..ouch. Thank you for the comment πŸ™‚

  15. We wiil probably be touring around Colorado in June. We’ve been there a few times on a motorcycle but never with the RV.

    We also really enjoyed the Desert Museum. Wonderful place! And I am so missing the saguaro.

  16. What wonderful pictures! I loved the one with the snow-dusted hills in the distance above the campground (the 4th shot) and the birds and best of all……. who knew they saguaros grew that tall. It’s a good thing you were standing next to it. Or are you a midget?? πŸ˜€

    • haha… 5’5″ those saguaros were towering. Thanks for liking my photos. I wish I had run around more taking photos when it snowed in Tucson but I didn’t want me or the camera getting wet. It sure was pretty!

  17. Beautiful story of the cactus that I too now has affection for. Ha ha . Great shot on the brimming pleats. And yes you finally had your JVs…Agree, no trip to Tucson is complete without going to the Desert Museum. Great photos as well of those birds !
    Hope you have arrived safely to your home. Now you have a larger home to roam around.

    • I really tried to get a better photo of the Javvys but I was happy just seeing them. I would go back to the museum again and spend more time….it was a little cold that day.
      We’re home and wishing we were still out there running around. Although its nice to have lots of space and use as much water as I want πŸ™‚

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