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The saguaro is the largest cactus in the US. It can grow as high as 40 feet, and weigh as much as two tons. They can live as long as 150 to 200 years. At about 75 to 100 years, the cactus may grow arms, and can develop as many as up 40 to 50. This posting focuses mainly on the saguaro flower, which is the state wildflower of Arizona.
Saguaros are confined mainly to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican state of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California. While the Sonoran exhibits typical harsh desert conditions, its biseasonal rainfall pattern results in more plant species than any other desert in the world, including the saguaro cactus. The saguaro is a critical component of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.
The saguaro cactus supports many species, including birds, insects, reptiles and mammals. The main trunk of the cactus provides shelter in cavities which are excavated by gila woodpeckers. Once abandoned by woodpeckers in subsequent years other birds, including pygmy owls, elf owls, european starlings (4th photo), and purple martins move in to nest and raise their young. As to the flowers, Bats feed on the flowers and nectar, along with birds including the gila woodpecker (1st & 3rd photos), bees and other insects. The flowers (2nd photo) open up at night, and last into the following afternoon, after which they fade…lasting less than 24 hours! They bloom generally once a year. Blooms first appear when the cactus is about 35 years old. After the flowers fade, they then mature into bright red fruit. The fruit ripens and splits open revealing a juicy red pulp, which contains as many as 2000 small black seeds. The fruit is then eaten by many species including finches, woodpeckers, doves, bats, tortoise, javelina and coyote, per the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Such beauty in so little time!
Spotted on Apr 20, 2018
Submitted on May 10, 2018
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