The Giant Saguaro, King of the Desert!

It’s That Time of Year Again, the Saguaros are Blooming!

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The Saguaro bloom is the official State Flower of Arizona!

Carnegiea gigantea, commonly known as the Giant Saguaro is the sentinel of the desert.  It reigns tall over all other cacti.  At 40-60 feet or more the Saguaro will dwarf all other plants in the Sonoran Desert. It is the largest cacti in the United States!

The Saguaro known for it’s many arms in photos and cartoons. 

Saguaro cartoon

The interesting fact is that these old giants often do not put an arm on until they are over 50 years old.  They can have as many as 25 arms with some approaching 15 or 20 feet long as well.  During the summer the Saguaro can soak up summer rains from it’s shallow root system and put on tons of weight.

Old Gorwth Saguaros

Old Growth Saguaros

The Saguaro is a Symbol of Arizona!

Saguaros are highly sought after in Arizona for landscaping.  Larger plants can be transplanted easily as long as enough root is is salvaged.  The Arizona  Department of Transportation (ADOT) routinely transplants these plants along highways.

There is a state law that protects Saguaros from being harmed and from poaching. Wildcat poachers still go into the desert areas and steal these plants to resell to individuals for their yards. A few years ago a large Saguaro  in the process of being poached fell on the poacher killing him on the spot!

What a terrible thing,  but I suppose you could call that plant karma!

There are a lot of Saguaros in Central Arizona!

There are a lot of Saguaros in Central Arizona!

How many of these old growth cacti are there anyway?

While you might think they are scarce because you usually only associate Saguaros with the Arizona Desert, they are actually quite plentiful. Even though you think of them being in the Southwestern Deserts, they are confined to the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as well as the Sonoran Desert in the Mexican state of Sonora.

The Sonoran Desert is rich in Diversity!

While you picture a desert as a starkly empty dry and extremely hot place, the Sonoran while the hottest desert in the United States is also rich in plant and animal life.  There are “60 mammal species, 350 bird species, 20 amphibian species, over 100 reptile species, 30 native fish species, over 1000 native bee species, and more than 2,000 native plant species” found in this desert region!”

Just east of Tucson Arizona, in the Rincon Mountains, lies the Saguaro National Park. This park in the rugged foothills of Tucson is home to one of the densest stands of Saguaros in the state.

Fragile Ecosystems at Risk

While rich in diversity and geologically beautiful, the Sonoran Desert is a fragile ecosystem.  Four wheelers and ATV users have for years carved roads through the desert areas outside of Phoenix and Tucson and other towns in the desert.  Many of these users don’t realize that their fun does not equate to a healthy desert.  Once a 4×4 or ATV goes off road, that road is often there permanently.  Fragile cryptogamic soil crusts are broken up and the soils are then prone to sheet flooding.

Two other scourges of the Desert are two innocuous yet dangerous grasses…Red Brome and Buffelgrass!  These grasses brought in by the Spanish settlers in sheep wool and in agricultural products or mixed with other grass seeds have become endemic in the desert.  Typically you see the infestations start along the highways and spread quickly.  The problem with these grasses is that they carry fire! Fire is not a normal occurrence in the desert.  It was once rare and never burned many acres when it did occur, now with acres and acres of grasses, fires spread rapidly and consume native vegetation.  The Giant Saguaro is one of it’s victims!

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 Enjoy and Protect the Sonoran Desert!




About rsingram

Environmental Specialist, Disaster Reservist, Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control, Para-Archeologist
This entry was posted in Arizona, Environment, Mexico, National Parks, Natural Resources, Nature Photos, Saguaro, Saguaro National Park, Sonoran Desert and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Giant Saguaro, King of the Desert!

  1. Pingback: Cardon - The Tallest Cactus in the World | World of Succulents

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