Saguaro Story

in nature •  3 months ago

The Saguaro Cactus. Living symbol of the greater Southwest.

Or is it? Actually, Saguaro almost are entirely limited to two states: Arizona (US) and Sonora (Mexico). There are a few specimens to be found in California but in reality it is an Arizona native. The scientific name Carnegiea gigantea is in honor of Andrew Carnegie.

Saguaro wa portrait.JPG

They are huge. Usually growing to 30 feet (10m) tall and weighing up to 4800 lbs (2200 kg). Saguaro will live to be 150 years old and don’t even put out the arms until they are around 75 years old.

Not all Saguaro produce arms, some just grow straight for their entire lives. They start from seed only and need a little shade and protection from the elements to get started. They bloom once per year with very fragrant flowers that open at night. The fruit is very sweet and has been used by the natives for centuries.

But this isn’t THE Saguaro story, it is A Saguaro story.

Saguaro warms.JPG

This old bugger is really old, and dying. It's lived it's life and is probably more than 150 years old. From long before Arizona was a state.

Saguaro are not particularly social with humans, they tend to be off by themselves in fairly inhospitable ground. Sam and I went for a walk with the intent of photographing some of them for the possibility of a post. This is that post.

Saguaro wa selfie.JPG

I’m really not much of a selfie guy (obviously) but took this one in an attempt to show the scale of this plant. I am 6’ 4” (1.93 m) and you can see from the coloration where my head is in relationship to the cactus. It is at least 30 ft (9 m) tall.

Saguaro warms detail.JPG

This old monster is well over 30 feet tall (10m) It's sad that it's run it's course, but that is the way of life. You can see the broken stub and the woody core that holds them together.

Saguaro wa damage.JPG

Here's a close up of the damage on this cactus. Note the hole in the stump. It was probably a birds nest at one time. Several species nest IN Saguaro Cactus. They make a hole in the cactus and move in. The cactus makes a hard shell and doesn't care at all. It works good for all.

Saguaro wa shadow.JPG

This guys shadow looks healthy and impressive. A reminder what he once was!

I said at the start this was about a Saguaro. This old cactus caught my fancy so I showed it too. The story is really about this one, the first one Sam and I happend upon in our walk of discovery.

Bullet Saguaro.JPG

From this distance I can tell that it's a young Saguaro, maybe even post WWII. It's all of 30 feet tall (10m) and you can tell by the way it's swelled that it is full of moisture.

Saguaro damage detail3.JPG

When you get up to it you can see the damage. Those are bullett holes folks. They haven't quite killed it, but it is certainly damaged.

You do get a pretty good look at the needles on a healthy Saguaro. Those things are big AND sharp. The needles on a Saguaro grow as the cactus grows, so those at the bottom are much the largest. Native peoples used the needles for sewing and decorative purposes.

Saguaro damage detail2.JPG

These holes go right through and there is no doubt in my mind that these are supersonic rounds probably .223. I just really don't understand why you would get any enjoyment from shooting one of these beautiful desert residents.

Saguaro damage detail selfie.JPG

Sorry. Another selfie to show the hight of the big damage. I think this one will survive barring any more asshats shooting it.

This has been a hard look at one of the most recognizable residents of our desert. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you.

All Words and Photographs in this post are mine, for better or worse.

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I've recently read a story about these cacti in my local newspaper. Apparently people are stealing them, because it's some sort of hipster fad to have them in your living room. Since they take so long to fully develop, they're just digging them out.

Now some parks are putting tracking devices in them to prevent people from stealing them.



That makes me so sad. The Saguaro are beloved and protected in Arizona. Heavily protected. You can get a grade 4 felony out of messing with them.

I know a guy here that runs a cactus nursery (his wife used to be my dentist). He has a permit and has started several hundred Saguaro from seed (that was legally harvested). He doesn't expect to sell any of his starts in his lifetime but possibly his children and certainly his grandchildren will have them for sale. I just love that 'long term' look at things.

This is so interesting @bigtom13. I didn't know they were only found in Mexico and Arizona. I love the way the live as single cactus here and there, and so stately. It's like they are posing for us. As for those nuts who shoot them....I don't know what to say, really ridiculous, and sad. Didn't know they lived that long. Wonderful information to share with us today :) Love your walks in the desert with Sam


The ARE stately. That's a really good word. They almost all live in tough country so are somewhat protected just because they are hard to get right up to. The one that was shot was just not far (less than 100 yards) off a fairly major trail through the area. I'm guessing somebody in a 4wd did the shooting. I'm pretty sure they didn't walk as far as Sam and I did...

I found this such an interestign read and realise dhow little i knew about cacti, wow they sure can grow tall

I am not sure I have ever seen you share a selfie and two in one post

Sorry running out of upvote power, so sending a !tip instead, it is worth more anyway :)


There are multiple kinds of cacti that range from very small to these monsters. The whole genus is really diverse.

I'm really not much of a selfie guy, but it was the only way I could think of to show the scale.


the selfies gave a good sense of scale for sure and the height of them is incredible, the variety and beauty of nature never ceases to amaze me

Wow, that is really interesting. I like a lot of other people would have guessed they are much more common in many of the states down there. Who would have known that it's only in one of our states and one in Mexico. That is pretty sad that someone would shoot it up like that and the picture of the inside of it is blowing my mind. Not what I would have expected at all. Thanks for sharing!


They are so big and solitary and iconic that I just can't help but love them. There was actually a guy killed here in '82 after shooting a Saguaro with a shotgun it fell on him. Some times Karma comes quickly.


That is too funny!

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Okay, this must be the iconic type of cacti from spaghetti Westerns! I honestly had no idea that they grew quite that tall... prickly trees! Or that they would live that long... or that the trunk would look so wood-like! Thanks for the enlightening post!


They are that iconic cacti from not only spaghetti westerns. John Ford Cupola always had footage with John Wayne and Saguaro though they had to switch locations to get it.

Last I heard Saguaro were endangered -- and protected by law. The assholes who did this could wind up in jail -- or a whole lot poorer -- and definitely sorry if anyone catches them.

Another instance where I hope the Karma Gods catch up with the culprits and chew someone raw. (I've assembled quite a long list.)


Yes. In fact, here in AZ they were protected by state laws much before the Federal listing. There are some really arcane and specific laws about even being able to buy property which has Saguaro on it.

There was a guy killed up near Cave Creek in '82 by a falling Saguaro. It fell on him and killed him after he emptied a shotgun into it. Karma with out a doubt.


What a lovely way to start the day. Srsly. This one made me smile! I hope he lingered a bit. Long enough to consider -- however briefly -- the error of his ways.

Saguaro's are so cool! I love seeing them on the drive when I visit my family in Arizona. A few times I've stopped and taken small hikes to check them out. It's amazing they can grow so big out there in the desert with so little water.


Saguaro National Park (suburban Tucson) is way worth the stop. It has one of the best native animal presentations I know of. Through a land swap with a relatively local tribe it now has a 'remote location' less than 100 miles from me, with a really good 'hike and look' options.

That Cactus is massive, would hate to get into a fight with that LOL :)


They are so unexpectedly big, it always surprises me and I'm close to them. The trees on the desert tend to be stunted and short, but the Saguaro grow tall and proud.


They should be proud, they are massive :)

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You should be a selfie-guy more often honey, it is good to see your face. The cactus really is huge and majestic. 💚

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I just love those big old cactus, they really are an iconic symbol of the great southwest even though they aren't native to Texas.
Why on earth anyone would want to use them for target practice is beyond me,,,,,,,,,,of course there are age restrictions on owning guns not IQ requirements.
Thanks for sharing this great part of the southwest.

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