Sunday, January 23, 2011

Saguaro heaven

I’ve been thinking a lot about Southern Arizona lately, probably precipitated by the days of endless fog we had recently. Our weather is much better now but I still wish I could just hop on a plane and do some exploring in and around Tucson.

Panorama of Saguaro National Park
Photo: Wikipedia

In December of 2007 I traveled to Tucson with my mother who for many years had been wanting to see saguaros in their native habitat. While there is much more to the Sonoran Desert than just saguaros, they are its most magnificent inhabitants and one of the best known icons of the American West.

Saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea) are true giants. The largest known saguaro is 45 ft. tall, with a girth of 10 ft. They are extremely slow-growing; a 10-year old saguaro is often just two inches tall. It can take up to 75 years before a saguaro develops side arms, and it can live up to 150 years or longer. What’s even more amazing: Out of the 40 million seeds a saguaro typically produces over the course of its life, only one of them will develop into a plant that outlives its parent.

Saguaros are only found in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona and in the Mexican state of Sonora. Saguaro National Park, consisting of two sections on the east and west side of Tucson, conserves particularly outstanding tracts of the Sonoran Desert. It is the best place to see saguaros in their native habitat.

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Vista from shade ramada at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, located just south of the Western Unit of Saguaro National Park, is just as special. This world-renowned botanical garden, zoo and natural history museum offers many opportunities to learn more about the flora and fauna of this remarkable land. I’ve been there three times now, and it’s the most unique place of its kind I’ve ever seen.

Even though we’re not planning a trip to Arizona at the moment, I enjoy looking at the photos I took during my 2007 visit—especially as I’m adding more succulents and cacti to our garden.

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Two saguaros
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Dangerous but beautiful
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Saguaro family
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Saguaro with ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)
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The strangest saguaro we saw
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Saguaro skeleton
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Queen Victoria agave (Agave victoriae-reginae)
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Agave in a bowl at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

2 comments:

  1. Beautiful pics as always Gerhard! Saguaros are such architectural plants. How minimum temps you reckon they can do down to? Is it possible to grow one in your yard/location?

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  2. I love saguaros but have never seen any in Northern California. Maybe it's because our winters are too wet and they would rot in the ground? They are used to relatively dry winters and monsoon-like rains in summer.

    I do see potted saguaros for sale online but they're usually very small--no surprise considering they're such slow grower.

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