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All About the Cardon Cactus

Updated on August 29, 2012

The Majestic Cardon Cactus

The Cardon Cactus is native to San Felipe and the largest of its kind in the world. These stately specimens can live to be 300 years old, 70 feet tall and weigh 25 tons!

The main trunk often has at least 25 branches that extend vertically from it, reaching sizes of 5 feet around. As the Cardon Cactus ages, it cracks, wrinkles and turns a grayish shade so it easy to see which plants are young from those who have been standing a couple of centuries.

There is an extensive yet shallow root system found with the Cardon Cactus that quickly absorbs the water from brief torrential rainfalls that occur in the desert. These fleshy tissues in the trunk are able to store one ton of water or more!


Cardon Cactus

Flowers

From March until the end of June, brilliant flowers appear all over the Cardon Cactus. They are mainly seen on the southern side on the tips of the most upper stems. These unique flowers open late in the afternoon through the night and close in the morning.

Nectar-feeding bats are responsible for nightly pollination. The flowers are bell-shaped and white with a thick pollen coating around the rim. Between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm is when most nectar production occurs. As the bats feed on this desirable source, they move from flower to flower and plant to plant to handle all of the cross-pollination.

Fruit

Due to the feeding frenzy by the bats, many seeds are spread. While birds rarely feed on the flowers, they do enjoy the seeds. The fruit that develops is fuzzy, golden and the size of a golf ball. Interestingly, it will often split down the middle and reveal a sweet red flesh.

Each piece of fruit in the Cordon Cactus contains 800 seeds! It is essential that birds and bats feed on them because it requires the stomach acids to rough them up and pass them through for the seeds to be able to crack open and sprout. It takes thousands of seeds to create one Cardon Cactus which then takes a decade to grow to the size of a petite shrub.

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