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.
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.