I would bet most everyone has seen a Saguaro Cactus, at least in pictures. It is an iconic image of old time westerns, even though it does not grow throughout all of the southwest. A great place to view Saguaros is in the Saguaro National Park, outside Tucson, Arizona. Driving through this national park is an incredible experience with its open vistas and extensive cactus forest. But it is the Saguaro Cactus itself that is so amazing, especially when it is in bloom.
For me, some of my amazement over the great Saguaros comes from knowing the basic facts about this wondrous plant:
The Saguaro Cactus is the defining plant of the Sonoran Desert, which runs from Mexico into Arizona and small sections of California. Its blossom is the state wildflower for Arizona.
This cactus is grown only from seeds, not from cuttings.
Saguaros grow very, very, very slowly. At 10 years old, a cactus may be less than 2 inches tall.
Saguaros can live to be 200 years old, reaching heights of 40-60 feet tall.
The largest known Saguaro is Champion Saguaro, and it is 45 feet tall with a three-foot girth. The tallest Saguaro ever measured was 78 feet tall before it blew over in a wind storm in 1986.
A Saguaro with no branches is called a spear.
The branches start growing once a plant is about 75 years old.
Once a Saguaro dies, its woody ribs can be used to build such things as fences and roofs.
The whole life cycle of this magnificent cactus rests on its flower and pollination cycle. Each plant can have hundreds of flowers, which bloom in late spring, generating red fruit throughout the summer. Each fruit contains thousands of seeds. The flowers are pollinated by insects, birds and even bats.
I have visited the Saguaro National Monument as well as the Tucson Desert Museum many times over the years, always enjoying the Saguaro Cactus. However, I never managed to visit when the Saguaros were in bloom. This year, I finally noticed the details shared in a brochure that stressed that the blooms were most prevalent in May—not earlier in the spring—and that one needed to be there early in the day to see them at their best. It seems each blossom is short-lived, initially blooming after sunset and closing by noon the next day.
When they are in bloom, they are gorgeous!