The saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, is the largest cactus in the United States and native to Arizona. In 1931 the opulent white blossom of the Saguaro Cactus was designated as Arizona’s state flower. The best time of year to see these cactus bloom is April through June.
The Saguaro cacti mainly grow in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. When a Saguaro cactus reaches 35 years of age it begins to produce blossoms. Amassed near the ends of the branches, the green buds bloom into milky-white flowers. The Saguaro flower blooms after sunset and last only one day.
At the top of the flower tube is a compact group of yellow stamens. The saguaro cactus has more stamen on its flower than any other cactus. If conditions have been favorable for the Saguaro you could see hundreds of blossoms on a cactus.
Pollinators like birds, insects, and bats are attracted to the nectar that collects at the bottom of the flower’s 4 inch tube. A Saguaro blossom can only be fertilized by cross-pollination.
Only a few Saguaro flowers bloom each night and close by late morning; thus, giving a greater opportunity for pollination.
This elegant desert pageant occurs for about 2 months. From living in this area, we have to say it is hard to decide the exact dates but end of April to mid June would be notable.
bird pollinating the Saguaro cactus blossom
Pollinated flowers form a vivid red fruit filled with thousands of black seeds. The fruit is eaten and digested through which its dispersed throughout the desert.
Yucca is an evergreen, perennial plant with spine-tipped leaves that grow in a rosette around a thick central stem. More than 25 species of Yucca live in the arid regions of the southwest. One of the finest aspects of this desert plant is that it is low maintenance.
If its craggy look doesn’t bother you then it is not even necessary to prune it.
Trimming the Yucca plant is commonplace, especially for ornamental purposes. The best time to prune those rugged leaves is spring. While early spring is the ideal season, a yucca can be trimmed anytime. Just make sure the yucca plant gets plenty of light while it is recovering.
Cutting back a yucca may look harsh, but it is an attractive way to keep your plant manageable. When the Yucca completes flowering cut the stalk all the way to the ground with a sharp pair of lopping shears. To prevent cuts and scratches, wear heavy garden gloves.
Keep in mind that cutting the top off the yucca encourages the root system to push up new growth and more plants, called “pups” will appear. Hire professionals to do your yucca trimming if you are short on time.
Tidbits: The Apache Indians preferred the flowers of Yucca elata, a thin-leaf yucca, to those of the thick-leaf banana yucca. We know that these flowers were eaten thousands of years ago because unusually large amounts of yucca pollen have been found in some dried human feces collected from Hinds Cave.
While traveling Arizona we stopped at Saguaro National Park, in Tucson. The park is located in the Sonoran Desert.
The giant cacti, called Saguaros, are protected and preserved within the park.
After a single rainfall, Saguaros can soak up to 200 gallons of water through their huge network of roots that lay just 4-6 inches below the desert surface. That is enough water to last this giant cactus an entire year!
A saguaro expands like an accordion when it absorbs water which can increase its weight by up to a ton.
In 1931, The Saguaro’s Blossom became the Arizona State Flower.
The Saguaro Cactus blooms April through June. Its flowers are creamy white and numerous. Up to a hundred flowers can bloom on one Saguaro Cactus!
The saguaro blossom opens after sunset and by the next afternoon the flower is wilted. The white cactus flower repeats itself night after night. During the few hours the saguaro flower is open birds, bats, and honeybees pollinate them.
Later in the summer, the cactus flowers that were pollinated will become red-fleshed saguaro fruits that are enjoyed by the local bird population. The saguaro cactus is also known as the pitahaya, sahuara and giant cactus.
The Saguaro often begins life with a nurse tree or shrub which can provide shade and moisture for the germination of life. This Saguaro grows slowly — only about an inch a year — eventually becoming very tall; reaching heights of 50 feet. The largest saguaro cacti, with more than 5 arms, are approximately 200 years old.
An essential bird pollinator and seed dispenser for the saguaro cactus plant is the white-winged dove.
The white-winged dove, Zenaida asiatica, is a large grayish brown stout bird with the renowned white stripe on their wings. This bird’s distinctive white wingbars are visible at rest and in flight.
The dove sexes look much the same, but the young white wings have a duller and grayer plumage than adults.
Juvenile white-winged doves have no blue orbital ring and their legs are brighter pinkish red. These young doves also have brown eyes instead of the adult bird red eyes.
Adult white-winged doves have a patch of blue, featherless skin around each crimson red eye.
Adult males and females look-alike; except male doves are larger in size along with an iridescent sheen on their head and neck.
The white-winged males show various dominant behaviors. He may crow around. This means the male dove puffs his chest up and walks around making cooing noises and bobbing his head up and down.
The female white-winged birds don’t usually exhibit this commanding behavior.
White-winged doves feed on a variety of seeds, grains, and cactus fruit. The doves occurring in the Sonoran Desert rely heavily on the pollen, nectar and red fruit of the saguaro cactus, Carnegeia gigantea, for nutrition and water.
In the photos above and below you can plainly see this bird’s white tail tips.
Male doves seek areas with easy access to food and water; they will defend their breeding territories against intruders and competitors.
These tenacious birds can fly 25 or more miles to find water!
Their lifespan in the wild is about 10-15 years. It is routine for white-winged dove pairs and families to stay together for life.
The white-winged dove has a bold white band that appears as a brilliant white crescent when flying.
When the dove’s wings are closed, this area looks like a white bar on the lower edge of the wing.
In the sweltering desert, white-winged doves are able to draw needed moisture from saguaro cactus fruit.
White-winged doves are a familiar sight at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. The doves migrate to the desert when the saguaro cactus are blooming. These birds nourish themselves on the buffet of saguaro cactus blossoms and fruit.
The Saguaro cactus will produce white flowers from April to June. This beautiful desert show only occurs 2 months out of the year.
This breath-taking Saguaro Cactus Blossom was designated Arizona’s State Flower in 1931.
The Saguaro flowers are velvety white, and emit a sweet nectar that attracts bats. During the night the flowers are pollinated by the Mexican long-tongued bat and the lesser long-nosed bat.
During the daytime the flowers are pollinated by bees and birds.
The Saguaro Cactus (pronounced “sah-wah-roh”), is an icon of the American west.
Arizona’s Saguaro National Park provides the ideal conditions for sustaining dense stands of the famous saguaro cactus, Carnegiea gigantea.
Saguaro blossoms are usually found near the tops of the stems and arms of the giant cactus.
There can be close to a hundred of these creamy white flowers on ONE Saguaro!
Ever wonder what the Saguaro Cactus Flowers smell like? The smell is very strong and I’d have to say these cactus blossoms smell like overripe melons!
We visit Saguaro Park many times throughout the year; but I have to say April through June is some of our favorite months. If we get to the park in the early mornings we are sure to see the Saguaro Cactus with their white flowers open.
One of the great MASTERS of desert survival is The Giant Saguaro Cactus. Every aspect of this cactus plant is specifically designed to thrive in the harsh Sonoran Desert.
At 35 years of age the Saguaro Cactus will start to produce flowers.
The saguaro flower opens after sunset and by next early afternoon the blossom is wilted.
The whitecactus flower repeats itself night after night. They have less than 24 hours to attract an animal to be pollinated.
A Saguaro can only be fertilized from a different cactus – cross pollination.
At the top of the Saguaro flower tube is a dense group of yellow stamens. The Saguaro Cactus has more stamen on its flower than any other desert cactus. Nectar accumulates at the bottom that attracts insects, bats, and birds.
The Saguaroflowers do not bloom all at the same time. Only a few flowers bloom each night waiting to be pollinated and then wilt by early afternoon.
The cactus flowers that were pollinated will become red-fleshed saguaro fruits later in the summer.
The animals, such as bats, that eat the red fruit help spread the Saguaro cactus seeds across the desert.
Each cactus fruit can contain up to 2000 small black seeds. Saguaro fruit is an excellent source of food and moisture for many desert animals.
Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of The Arizona Saguaro Cactus. It is illegal to harm a Saguaro in Arizona.
One of Arizona’s most majestic, lovable desert cactus plants is the Saguaro,Carnegiea gigantea. Being aware of the saguaro’s history and incredible internal design, it is an honor to walk close to the Giant Saguaro that is over 150 years old and standing tall.
These desert cacti are large, tree-like columnar cacti that develop branches (or arms) as they age.
Saguaro Cactus can not tolerate freezing temperatures in the winter and this is what limits their range.
Saguaro FACTS: Saguaros are a very slow growing cactus. A 10 year old plant might only be 2 inches tall.
How tall can a Saguaro Cactus grow? It can grow 40 to 60 feet tall.
Below are Saguaro cacti at the bottom of Mica Mountain in Saguaro National Park.
Saguaro cactus roots are only 4-6 inches deep and travel out as far from the plant as it is tall. There is one deep tap root that extends down into the ground.
A Saguaro Cactus can gather enough water through its remarkable root system, duringa significant rain, to last a year!
Why are there holes in the Saguaro Cactus? The gilded flicker and Gila woodpecker excavate nest cavities inside the saguaro’s pulpy flesh.
Cactus Wrens are common birds that live in the holes (nests) of the Saguaro Cactus.
When a saguaro reaches 35 years of age it begins to produce flowers.
A Saguaro can only be fertilized from a different cactus – cross pollination. Only a few bloom each night awaiting to be pollinated and close by late morning.
Because the major part of a desert saguaro cactus is made up of water, an adult plant may weigh 6 tons or more. This tremendous weight is supported by a circular skeleton of inter-connected, woody ribs.
After the saguaro dies its wood ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture. The holes that birds nested in are called saguaro boots.
Native Americans used saguaro boots as water containers.
Saguaro branches normally begin to appear when the cactus reaches 50 to 70 years of age.
The average life span of a saguaro is approximately 175 years of age. Experts have estimated that a Saguaro Cactus with more than 5 armscan be 200 years old.
Young saguaro cacti can be very hard to find because they grow under the protection of a “nurse tree”. The nurse tree releases nitrogen in the soil which the Saguaros and other desert cacti use to grow healthy and strong.
Saguaros sometimes grow in odd shapes or forms. The growing tip of the cactus occasionally produces a fan-like form which is referred to as crested or cristate.
These crested saguaro cacti, Carnegia gigantea forma cristata, are rare. Biologists are not sure why these Saguaros grow this fan-like shape.
Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of The Arizona Saguaro Cactus. It is illegal to harm a Saguaro in Arizona. During building or construction, precautions must be taken to move every saguaro that may be affected.
Flowering cactus belong to a tribe called Trichocereeae. There are 25 members, species, of these cacti including the night blooming variety.
One of our cacti had a gorgeous white flower bloom in the night. Shadow stuck his nose in it as soon as I let him outside so this flower must smell wonderful!
Many people call the cactus in the photo below, the Easter lily cactus. This beauty is part of the large genus called Echinopsis, which contains over 100 species of treelike to globose, (shape of a sphere or ball).
Along with Shadow, bees and hummingbirds love these cactus blooms!
Echinopsis cactus species are known for the great size of the flower tube. See the size of the tube on the cactus photo below.The Flowers from these cacti tend to be much larger than you would expect.
This cactus bloomed during the night. We adore our garden surprises from our variety of cacti. Sadly the flowers only last for a day. The cactus flower shrivels up and by morning you won’t even know it was there.
Caring for your flowering cactus is quite easy. Cactus should be grown in full sun and well drained soil. The soil for Echinopsis cactus species should never be saturated, as the soft fibrous roots will rot if kept wet for any length of time.