(Sah – Wah – Ro)
As a child I enjoyed going to the movies to watch Roy and Gabby or Gene and Smiley, after turning the outlaws over to the sheriff, riding off into the desert, dotted with all those tall cacti with arms named Saguaros. Many of these old westerns movies and TV series were filmed in Monument Valley Utah. Not intending to deflate anyone’s childhood memories of these now classic Hollywood productions and at the risk of being called a “Meanie”, the only location where the Saguaro cacti actually grow are in the Sonoran Desert in Mexico and Arizona at elevations generally lower than four thousand feet. I guess it’s the magic of cinematography that placed them in Monument Valley or other locations.
Saguaros are very slow growing, between 1 and 1.5 inches during the first eight years of life. As the Saguaro begins to age the growth rates will vary depending upon climate, precipitation and location. In the Saguaro National Park, near Tucson, AZ The branches or arms begin to appear when the Saguaro reaches 50 to 70 years of age. In lower elevations it may take as long as 100 years before the arms appear. The arms generally bend upward and can number over 25. The Saguaro is the largest cactus in the world.
When a Saguaro reaches 35 years of age, it begins to sprout a cluster of creamy flowers which open at night and close the next evening. It is during this time that pollination by bats, birds and insects occur. Late April through early June is when the tops of the Saguaro’s maim trunk and arms produce the flowers.
Saguaros roots grow out from the plant in a radial fashion several inches underground to capture water during the rainy season and store it in the ribs of the plant which expand as more water is captured.
An adult Saguaro is considered to be about 125 years of age. Because of the water it stores a Saguaro may weigh as much as 6 tons. The Saguaro is believed to have a life span of 150 to 175 years.
The Saguaro cacti provide building material for humans, nesting habitat for birds and fruit for both humans and wildlife.
I was fortunate to be able to photograph the Saguaros in the Saguaro National Park, The Arizona Desert Museum and Sabino Canyon State Park during the time period when they were in bloom.