Tucson, Arizona is home to the nation’s largest cacti. The giant saguaro is the universal symbol of the American west. These majestic plants (or could they be considered trees), found only in a small portion of the United States, are protected by Saguaro National Park. They are primarily to the east and west of the modern city of Tucson, where you can see these enormous cacti, silhouetted by the beauty of a magnificent desert sunset. (National Park Service – https://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm)
As we traveled through southern Arizona we saw these majestic cacti slowly reaching toward the sky over the years, inch-by-inch. It seems like they just stand still, reaching upward with outstretched hands, towering over those who would ponder their beauty and age.
Saguaro are very slow growing cactus. A 10 year old plant might only be 1.5 inches tall. Saguaro can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall (12-18m). When rain is plentiful and the saguaro is fully hydrated it can weigh between 3200-4800 pounds. (https://www.desertmuseum.org)
- The saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States.
- Most of the saguaros roots are only 4-6 inches deep and radiate out as far from the plant as it is tall. There is one deep root, or tap root that extends down into the ground more than 2 feet.
- After the saguaro dies its woody ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture. The holes that birds nested in or “saguaro boots” can be found among the dead saguaros. Native Americans used these as water containers long before the canteen was available.
Since the saguaro is a symbol of the American west, I plan to highlight Tombstone, Arizona in my next two posts. Stay tuned.