Pictures of Saguaro Cactus National Park in Arizona - Sonoran Desert near Tucson
Saguaro National Park in Arizona
This post will address the beautiful and most iconic type of cactus called the Saguaro which is found in the Sonoran Desert area of Arizona, specifically in the set aside lands of the Saguaro National Park near Tucson.
It's uplifted arms make it distinctive from almost every other type of cacti found in this part of the world.
In late April of 1998, my long time friend from Germany came over here for a visit. We had been friends ever since our shared operating room nursing experience years before in the Texas Medical Center.
Embarking upon a traveling adventure that would take us to 5 states, 10 national parks, and several additional state parks and national monuments, we spent 3 weeks together and traveled over 5,000 miles. It created memories for a lifetime!
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park photos
I did all of the driving and we took coolers in the car with food for picnics.
Not only did it save money, but also time as we had many miles to cover. We generally ate at restaurants in the evenings only after our sightseeing for each day was completed.
My friend was absolutely amazed at the vastness of the land and distances between populated areas as we traveled the roads heading west from Houston.
This portion of the trip is in southern Arizona and showcases the Saguaro National Park.
Saguaros are the largest cacti in the Sonoran Desert and in all of the United States for that matter.
Distinct in their form with uplifted arms as they develop age, they only grow in this part of the United States.
Life is tough in this North American desert and many things take a toll on the saguaros. This is one reason why this national park has been set aside to help ensure their survival.
Temperatures in the summer often climb to over 100 degrees. Rainfall is scarce...less than 12 inches typically fall over the course of a year.
Grazing livestock used to trample the cactus which take so long a time to develop any size. That is no longer allowed within the confines of the park.
A seedling saguaro is about 1/4 of an inch tall after one year of growth.
It may be a foot tall after 15 years of growth and in another 15 years it begins to flower and bear fruit.
The "arms" or branches first start beginning to sprout after the cactus reaches the age of 75 years!
Thus one can readily see that the ones who are 25 to 50 feet tall are well over 100 years old.......even 150 years in many cases.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park
Life is fragile!
Not only does heat and drought affect these largest cacti in the United States, but so do other factors including:
Lightening and strong winds
Rodents and birds who eat them
and Cactus Rustlers who steal and sell them for landscaping projects.
The saguaro cactus has very shallow roots that are only about 3 inches below the ground. They fan out about as far as the cactus is tall. The hair on the roots expand when moisture hits it thereby capturing every bit of life giving moisture from the infrequent rainfall.
Spongy flesh in the trunk and arms store the water and little evaporation takes place since the cactus has no leaves. The ribs of the cactus actually expand or shrink depending upon how much water is being stored in the plant at one time.
Spines discourage many animals from taking moisture from the plant as they are very sharp.
Native Indians who used to live here used the ribs of these saguaros for building shelters. They also harvested the fruit to eat and make wine.
One photo taken shows a dead saguaro with the skeleton of the plant still in an upright position.
My friend and I did not get to see these saguaros in bloom. That typically happens in May and June and the blossoms open at night. By the next afternoon the flower is wilted. That spectacle lasts for only about a month each year.
Different birds, bats, bees and moths who feed on the nectar transport the pollen and do the necessary fertilizing from plant to plant.
Video of the Saguaros and Indian petroglyphs
Mountain Biking Saguaro National Park, Arizona
More photos from the Saguaro National ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Saguaro National Park West
Saguaro National Park
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Living amidst the saguaros
One sees many holes in these tall specimens of the desert.
The Gila Woodpecker and the Gilded Flicker are both responsible for making holes in the trunks of the saguaro where they then make their nests.
Other birds like to take these already carved out holes for their homes as well. The holes not only provide safety for their nestlings, but also provide a respite from the heat and cold. It can be a difference of 20 degrees in these carved out shelters.
According to a brochure that I picked up, some of the birds that like to reside here include the following:
Phainopeplas Elf Owls
Even honeybees like to build their homes in these saguaro holes.
Other desert dwellers that reside around here include the cactus mouse; diamondback rattlesnake; quail; roadrunners; desert tortoise; Gila monster; kangaroo rat; javelinas and jackrabbits to name a few. Most of these are nocturnal so one does not readily get to view them in the daytime.
My friend and I truly enjoyed this desert scenery near Tucson, Arizona and particularly the striking and distinctive saguaro cactus that really define this part of the country and have the Saguaro National Park in their honor.
Some slides that my husband and I took years ago and recently had formatted into DVD's showing what was (at the time) the Saguaro National Monument.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Location of the Saguaro National Park
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Now for a dazzling finale with color...!
© 2009 Peggy Woods
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