Friday, January 16, 2009

Saguaros -- Including A Crested Saguaro

Saguaro cacti, best known for their curving, uplifted "arms," on occasion grow a fan-like topknot for reasons unknown. These are the rare Crested Saguaros, and occur once in every 200,000 saguaros.

We discovered that one was growing within a few miles of our boon-docking site in Quartzsite -- while the crest is not as lovely as some appear to be, it was worth the search on the back roads of the desert to find it. Here it what we found -- a crest, although somewhat deformed AND arms:


Saguaros remain armless, like the ones to the right of the crested saguaro in the photo above, until they are 50-75 years old at which time some -- but not all -- begin to grow their arms. They can live for 200-300 years, and are often home to small birds such as finches or woodpeckers.

In Arizona, it is illegal to engage in "cactus plugging" -- stuffing a saguaro with explosives or just shooting them for the "fun" of watching them fall. In 1982, a saguaro got the last laugh -- a vandal named David Grundman was killed when the arm of the saguaro he was plugging fell on him. Darwin award candidate, perhaps?

Here is a photo of John next to a mature saguaro to give you an idea of how big they get. They can weigh up to six tons -- the interior is not just composed of vegetable material like an aloe or a prickly pear, but instead contains wood-like ribs that support the weight:

The saguaros we saw in the desert often were paired with their own bush (or maybe it's a small tree), although I haven't been able to find out why. Maybe the bush shields the seedling from the hot sun, or maybe they just both found the same bit of underground water. The crested saguaro above had one, and here are some photos of a few more:


And, finally, a bit of Flora Personification. Some saguaros take on a human look, especially when the arms are even. This one I'm calling, "The Stick-'Em-Up":


Richard said...

Great photos and great write-up. Thanks so much for sharing.


>Here is a photo of John next to a mature saguaro to give you an idea of how big they get.

Either that or John is a really tiny guy.