Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Saguaro Cactus—The Supreme Sentinel of the Saguaro National Park

Forever we have seen the Saguaro Cactus in many pictures for Arizona.  The Saguaro has seemed to be the behind the scenes “character” in many western movies.

I remember the first time I saw a Saguaro Cactus.  We were driving through Arizona for a long weekend over New Year’s about 10 years ago.  I remember squealing with excitement and begging George to pull the vehicle over for a picture.  That trip we were just driving through, so as quickly as they were in the landscape—we had moved on and they were gone.

Now that we travel full time, we are able to stop and “smell the cactus”. 

These massive cactus stand tall raising their arms to the heavens. 
In the movies it seems as if all the Saguaros are perfectly shaped—having a large, straight trunk and 2 raised arms.  
 The Saguaro Cactus has become an easily identified icon of the Southwest.
After doing a little research, these cactus became even more exciting to me.  Saquaros are the largest cacti in North America.  They will grow to 50 feet and can weigh more than seven tons! 

Saguaros are only found naturally in the Sonoran Desert—which is in southern Arizona, southeastern California and Sonora, Mexico. 

It was shocking to me how slowly the Saguaro grows—may be only six inches high after 10 years.  After 30 years, and having several growth spirts it may reach six feet.
From a plant perspective, Saguaros have a long lifespan.  They can live for more than 150 years. 

Even dead the Saguaro is a statue to see. 

Dead or alive, the Saguaro provides a home to several different bird species.  We didn’t spend time looking for the birds, but the “doors” to their cactus homes were easy to spot.

They generally grow their first arm between 75 to 100 years old.  We saw several very large plants with no arms at all.

People are the biggest threat to the Saguaro Cactus.  Cactus thieves steal plants from public lands to sell.  These modern day rustlers can sell a Saguaro for over $60 a foot.  In an effort to protect these plants, the Saguaro National Park has started inserting microchip identification tags into some of the cacti.

The Saguaro Cactus has a strong stature—almost seeming to have a protective personality.
The Sonoran Desert is a lush, full landscape.  It is complete with not only Saguaro Cactus, but many other cacti varieties, trees and shrubs.

This extraordinary giant rises from the ground as a symbol of southwest United States.
We spent much of the day driving through the 2 sections of the National Park.  Where it was appropriate, we took every opportunity to get a little closer.

I love signs across America.  This one cracked me up… as if falling on your bike is not scary… imagine falling on your bike, going downhill… in an area known for all of the cactus.  OUCH!
The Saguaro National Park is a sight that I would encourage everyone visiting the area to enjoy first hand.

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